The president’s earlier decision to maintain the restrictions imposed by his predecessor drew criticism from some Democrats.
US officials said Sunday that President Joe Biden intends to increase the refugee intake limit for this year, currently at 15,000, but is unlikely to raise it fourfold, which was the administration’s original goal.
Democrat Biden on Friday signed an executive order limiting the admission of refugees to the United States this year to the historically low level of 15,000 people set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden thus shelved plans to increase that number to 62,500, which angered refugee advocates and some Democratic lawmakers.
In an interview on ABC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden would return to the issue in the coming weeks but that “it will be very difficult to reach the goal of 62,500 people this fiscal year.”
“He is determined not only for America to accept refugees but also to increase this limit. He is committed to this and intends to implement it,” Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Fox News.
Amid criticism of the initial decision, the White House on Friday issued a statement saying Biden would set a “final, increased cap on refugee admissions” for the remainder of the fiscal year through May 15.
Biden’s executive order limiting refugee admissions to 15,000 people was a blow to public organizations that wanted the Democratic president to change the refugee policy set by Republican Trump quickly.
The refugee reception program stands apart from the system of granting asylum to migrants. Refugees must pass a background check while abroad and be allowed to enter the United States, unlike migrants who arrive at the US border and then apply for asylum.
The president’s cautious approach seems to be linked to worries about the prospect of accepting large numbers of refugees at a time when the number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border is growing.
Sullivan disagreed that Biden had broken an earlier promise. According to him, the distribution of the current limit of 15 thousand people included “zero people” from Africa, but the president changed the situation.