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Biden Wavers on Restricting Refugee Entry

  • April 17, 2021

Jenny Yang, the vice president for advocacy and policy at World Relief, a resettlement agency affiliated with evangelical Christians, said “the walk back” from Mr. Biden to raise the cap “doesn’t change the reality” that, for now, the historically low cap remains in place.

“The president broke his promise once,” Ms. Yang said, “and at this point, he needs to back up his statements with concrete actions that will actually start to rebuild the refugee program again.”

The directive on Friday did include some changes to the Trump-era program, which gave priority to Iraqis who had worked for the United States military and to people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. It also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees.

Mr. Biden is changing that by allowing in refugees based on the region they are fleeing. The carved-out slots include room for 7,000 Africans; 1,000 East Asians; 1,500 Europeans and Central Asians; and 3,000 Latin Americans and Caribbeans. It also includes 1,500 openings for those from the Near East and South Asia, and another 1,000 that are not linked to a specific region.

Ms. Psaki said the administration could not raise the cap as quickly as it wanted because of the “decimated refugee admissions program we inherited.” Administration officials have described a daunting task to resurrect that program.

Refugee officers were reassigned from posts abroad that were shuttered, and their travel has been limited during the pandemic. And resettlement offices in the United States were forced to close because of financial constraints from the cuts to refugee admissions.

“America needs to rebuild our refugee resettlement program,” said Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, who said the administration would fill all 15,000 slots “and work with Congress on increasing admissions and building back numbers to which we’ve committed.”

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