President Joe Biden announced earlier on Friday that he would limit the refugee admissions this year to 15,000 - a cap previously set by the Trump administration. But after receiving criticism from human rights advocates and some Democratic lawmakers, the president changed course that same day.
The White House issued a follow-up statement indicating that Biden would set a "final, increased refugee cap" for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.
Biden had previously pledged to increase the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. and take in more than 60,000 people fleeing from oppressive conditions, The New York Times reports.
The White House noted that the "initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely" between now and the end of the fiscal year, "given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited."
Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had limited resources and space since the number of migrants at the border was increasing.
"But I would say that it is a factor. (The Office of Refugee Resettlement), which is a part of HHS, does do refugee - does do management, and had personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure there is capacity and ability to manage both," Psaki said.
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However, refugee resettlement agencies have stressed that they're ready to accept refugee arrivals.
Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, tweeted that the U.S. needs to "rebuild" the resettlement program for refugees.
"America needs to rebuild our refugee resettlement program. We will use all 15,000 slots under the new Determination and work with Congress on increasing admissions and building back to the numbers to which we've committed," Sullivan tweeted.
America needs to rebuild our refugee resettlement program. We will use all 15,000 slots under the new Determination and work with Congress on increasing admissions and building back to the numbers to which we’ve committed.
— Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) April 16, 2021
And Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, said resettlement agencies have been preparing for the number of arrivals to escalate.
"That is a completely false argument. It's not grounded on any sort of reality," she told CNN. "It's not that they don't have capacity or resources. It's purely a political calculation at this point."
Under the presidential determination signed by Biden, the U.S. will offer refugee status to a broader range of the world by altering the way refugee slots are assigned, a senior administration official said.
The 15,000 slots during the fiscal year 2021 would be allocated the following way: 7,000 for Africa, 1,000 for East Asia, 1,500 for Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia, and 1,000 for an unallocated reserve.