President Joe Biden has resisted signing off on raising the Trump-era refugee cap because of political optics, sources have told CNN.
The President’s hesitation comes as the administration faces heat from Republicans and Democrats for its handling of an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border. But the situation at the US southern border is separate from the refugee program, which dates back decades and has a thorough vetting process in place for refugees overseas to resettle in the US.
One Democratic aide described what is unfolding as “vintage Biden” in terms of preserving his options so that he can maintain decision-making space for the one that best suits him politically.
Democratic lawmakers and advocates, frustrated with the delay, have tried to seek answers from the administration but have fallen short. When asked by reporters about next steps, administration officials haven’t provided clarity, instead maintaining that the President is committed to the issue. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was committed to raising the refugee ceiling to 62,500 this fiscal year but she didn’t provide a timeline.
A White House spokesperson reiterated in a statement that Biden “remains committed to rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” adding that a “new Presidential Determination is under active consideration.”
“In the meantime, the work to rejuvenate the program to support increased refugee admissions is well underway,” the spokesperson said.
In February, the State Department presented Congress with a plan to expand the refugee cap put in place by former President Donald Trump – set at 15,000 – to allow up to 62,500 refugees to be resettled in the United States. As is normally the process, the State Department and White House had already agreed on the number.
The proposal was also in line with Biden’s commitment during the campaign to raise the refugee ceiling and return the US to admitting a higher number of refugees after historic low arrivals under Trump. But with the situation on the US-Mexico border heating up, the