Biden keeps US refugee cap at 15 000 rather than raise it

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The Biden administration's recent budget proposal requested 4.3 billion US dollars for ORR, while setting a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022.

But Biden has not issued a presidential determination since his administration notified Congress, as required by law.

The White House said Friday's order would speed up refugee admissions to the USA - since October around 2,000 people have been admitted under the programme.

"Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely", she added. AP's earlier story follows below.

"With that done, we expect the president to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15", wrote Psaki. Though the presidential action does not require congressional approval, presidents in the past announced a refugee cap shortly after the notification to Congress. The administration has indicated he may still do so. A senior administration official said Biden's new allocations, formalised in an emergency presidential determination, could result in speedier admissions of already screened and vetted refugees in a manner of days. There will be 7,000 seats for Africans, 1,000 for East Asians, 1,500 for Europeans and Central Asia, and 3,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and South Asia.

Refugee admissions reached historic lows under Trump, who portrayed refugees as a security threat and made limiting the number of immigrants allowed into the United States a hallmark of his presidency.

Biden returns to the rules that were in place before Trump and welcomes refugees based on their region of the world.

Biden's determination stated that the admission of up to 15,000 refugees this year "remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest".

LIRS, one of the chief organizations helping refugees in the United States, said that as of this month, only 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the current fiscal year.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he didn't buy that.

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That statement came just hours after Menendez reminded Biden that there are "29.6 million refugees worldwide".

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez sharply criticised the White House over the initial announcement, saying it "has not only stymied the number of refugees permitted entrance, it has prevented the State Dept from admitting vetted refugees now waiting in the system". There is a reserve of 1,000 slots.

Most of the refugees are from Africa and fleeing armed conflict or political persecution. This contradicts his previous promise to shelter more than 60,000 people who have fled war and persecution. "Today's order did that", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Another concern has been the record pace of unaccompanied migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, which has drawn in numerous resources that would go to vetting, processing and resettling refugees in the US.

That explanation baffled advocates.

Biden's decision not to raise the historically low cap on refugees marks a significant reversal from his campaign pledge to "reassert America's commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees" as the former vice president signaled early on to be the president of open borders.

Some 35,000 refugees have been cleared to go to the United States, and 100,000 remain in the pipeline and their lives remain in limbo, said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

They said there is still an incredible need that Biden's decision will not address.

Watson reported from San Diego.

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