WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden signed an emergency determination on Friday that will keep the number of refugee admissions to the U.S. at a Trump-era cap of 15,000, reversing a promise to raise the number to more than 60,000, according to a senior administration official.
The administration intends to use all 15,000 slots for fiscal year 2021, but instead will change the allocation to include regions that had been excluded under former President Donald Trump's administration, including Africa, Latin America and South Asia, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.
The Biden administration's decision is an about-face from February, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would allow 62,500 refugees to resettle here.
In a notification to Congress, Blinken said the cap was "justified by grave humanitarian concerns" and was in the national interest.
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Advocates and Democrats have been frustrated by the delay, which has led to the cancellation of hundreds of refugee flights and stranded thousands of people who are approved to be admitted but left in limbo without a presidential order.
Refugees and asylum seekers must show they have been persecuted in their home country or have a well-founded fear of persecution there on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Refugees make their claims from abroad, while asylum seekers make their claims once they've reached the U.S.
How refugee slots are allocated
The new allocation allows about 7,000 people fleeing persecution from Africa; 1,000 from East Asia; 1,500 from Europe and Central Asia; 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean; and 1,600 from the Near East and South Asia. The administration will reserve an additional 1,000 to use as needed, according to the official.
The Trump administration repeatedly slashed the number of refugees allowed to come to the U.S., and Trump himself often attacked immigrants in particularly harsh rhetoric.
During an October 2020 campaign stop in Minnesota, Trump directly attacked Biden on the issue. He said Biden would turn Minnesota "into a refugee camp ... overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools, and inundating your hospitals."