Washington, April 17 : The White House has walked back from keeping the current cap of 15,000 annual refugee admissions set by former President Donald Trump, hours after the decision evoked widespread backlash from Democratic lawmakers and civic groups.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday that President Joe Biden would announce a new, higher ceiling by May 15, reports Xinhua news agency.
“For the past few weeks, he has been consulting with his advisors to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the US between now and October 1.
“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.
“While finalising that determination, the President was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today’s order did that.
“With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15,” Psaki said.
Earlier on Friday, Biden signed an order keeping the country’s fiscal year 2021 refugee admissions at 15,000, a historical low cap set by Trump.
In response, Democratic House lawmaker Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a Somali refugee, called the decision “shameful”.
Indian-American House Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, slammed the decision “simply unacceptable and unconscionable”.
The State Department said in February it was planning to raise the ceiling of refugee admissions to 62,500 in the fiscal year ending September 30.
The Biden administration’s recent budget proposal requested $4.3 billion for ORR, while setting a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022.
The ORR’s 2020 budget was $1.3 billion.