“It is deeply disappointing that President Biden has chosen to maintain for the moment the record-low refugee admissions cap of 15,000 set by his predecessor. The rightful erasure of discriminatory admissions categories does not dispense with the need for a higher number of refugees to be admitted,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.
Earlier Friday, Psaki suggested that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency under the Health and Human Services Department, had limited capacity, given the growing number of migrants at the border. “But I would say that it is a factor. (The Office of Refugee Resettlement), which is a part of HHS, does do refugee — does do management, and had personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure there is capacity and ability to manage both,” Psaki said.
The process is different for migrants arriving at the border than refugees coming from overseas.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, tweeted that the US needs to “rebuild” the resettlement program for refugees.
“America needs to rebuild our refugee resettlement program. We will use all 15,000 slots under the new Determination and work with Congress on increasing admissions and building back to the numbers to which we’ve committed,” Sullivan tweeted.
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 proposal — and accompanying paperwork — had stalled.
The delay resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of refugee flights and left thousands of people expecting to arrive in the US after a years-long process in limbo. The emergency presidential determination will pave the way for some refugees already approved for travel to come to the US.
The fiscal year 2021 allocations include 7,000 slots for Africa, 1,000 for East Asia, 1,500 for Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 for Latin America/ Caribbean, 1,500 for Near East/ South Asia, and 1,000 slots that are unallocated.
“It’s disappointing, but now approved and vetted refugees can come here,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement organization.
This story has been updated with additional reporting and reaction.