Senate Democrats Pressure Biden to Increase Refugee Cap Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 23, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 28 April 2021 08:42 AM
Senate Democrats want President Joe Biden to raise the number of refugees being admitted into the United States.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined 33 other Democrats in sending Biden a letter that urged setting a 62,500 refugee cap for this fiscal year by May 15, 2021. They also want the cap on refugees increased to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October.
"Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted travelers to our country and can wait for years before they are resettled here," the letter said, as reported by The Epoch Times. "As of March 31, 2021, only 2,050 refugees had been resettled in the United States this fiscal year.
"More than 35,000 refugees have reportedly been screened and preliminarily approved by the Department of Homeland Security for resettlement in the United States. We urge you to expeditiously and safely admit all qualified refugees who are waiting to be resettled."
The letter came while immigrants surged the U.S.-Mexico border. Customs and Border Protection officials apprehended more than 172,000 illegal immigrants in March, according to statistics released April 8. That was up from about 101,000 in February.
Illegal entrants into the country included 18,890 unaccompanied minors — double the number (9,431) in February and nearly four times that in December 2020.
The Biden administration has sent mixed signals regarding refugee admissions.
After earlier this month issuing a directive to keep the Trump administration's cap on refugee limits of 15,000, the White House issued a statement saying Biden would "set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15."
That statement came hours after immediate Democrat backlash to initial directive.
Following administration denials that the decision to retain the Trump-era limits was due to the southern border crisis, Biden acknowledged the issue on April 17.
"The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number," Biden said.
Biden's administration also continues to blame the Trump administration for the "challenge" it faces in accepting more refugees.
"In terms of our considerations over time, we inherited an incredibly broken system, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. "It left us with some — and the President and others — with some skepticism about what the system would bear.
"Hence, our announcement a couple of weeks ago was meant to be a first step, focused on announcing the resumption of flights and also the overturning of the xenophobic policies of the last administration that prevented refugees from applying from Africa and the Middle East."
Psaki did not deny the administration was considering raising the refugee cap to 62,500.
"I would say that whatever the cap is — if the cap is close to that or at that — it will continue to be challenging," she said. "But there are considerations, including the message we’re sending to the world and also the need to get the muscles working in the system, in the federal government, but also with all of the important partners out there in the United States and around the world that play an important role in refugees traveling to the United States — help enable them to raise money, help enable them to hire staff, and get their systems ready so we can meet that 125 cap next year."