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16 Apr, 2021 23:41

AOC, immigration advocates fume after Biden fails to raise Trump-era cap on refugee admissions, breaking his election pledge

AOC, immigration advocates fume after Biden fails to raise Trump-era cap on refugee admissions, breaking his election pledge

President Joe Biden has raised the ire of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other immigration proponents by apparently breaking his pledge to raise predecessor Donald Trump’s historically low cap on refugee admissions to the US.

"Completely and utterly unacceptable," Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said on Friday. "Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump administration, including the historically low and plummeted refugee cap, is flat-out wrong. Keep your promise."

The statement came after Biden issued an emergency declaration that kept the number of refugee admissions for the federal government's current fiscal year, ending on September 30, at 15,000. The declaration will also speed up refugee admissions, but it breaks a pledge to boost the cap to 62,500 in the current fiscal year and to 125,000 in fiscal 2022.

The US previously admitted about 80,000 refugees annually, on average, but the program was curtailed after Trump took office in 2017. The Trump administration set the cap at 18,000 in the fiscal year ended on September 30, 2020 – fewer than 12,000 were actually admitted – and lowered it to 15,000 for fiscal 2021.

"This is a bad decision," former presidential candidate Julian Castro said of Biden's move. "Trump gutted our refugee program, a cornerstone of our global leadership and values. His policies can't be the default we carry on, especially for the sake of optics."

The decision comes amid a southern border crisis that has angered voters of all political stripes. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this week showed that although Biden has an overall approval rating of 48%, only 29% of Americans approve of his border policies. Only 27% of Hispanic Americans and 58% of Democrats approve. Illegal border crossings and apprehensions of unaccompanied minors have surged to record highs after Biden's policies incentivized families to send their children to the US with smugglers.

Also on rt.com Illegal US border crossings surge to highest level in two DECADES

The White House responded to the backlash by issuing a statement later on Friday, saying Biden will set a final refugee admissions cap for the current fiscal year by May 15. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden has been consulting with advisers on how many refugees the US can accommodate through the end of September.

Given the “decimated” program that Biden inherited from Trump and the current border “burdens” on the Office of Refugee Settlement, “his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” Psaki said.

But National Immigration Forum President Ali Noorani said a national network of NGOs, churches and state offices have decades of experience in settling refugees, so refugee resettlement "has nothing to do with what is happening at the border."

Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller said the delay in raising the refugee cap reflects the Biden team's awareness that the border crisis will lead to record Democrat losses in the midterm congressional elections. He added that the "staggering" number of illegal aliens being released at the border dwarfs the number of admissions that would have been gained if Biden kept his pledge.

Economist Robert Reich, who was secretary of labor under former president Bill Clinton, said Biden has no excuse for retaining Trump's "disgracefully low" refugee cap. "This is more than just a shameful broken promise," Reich said. "Inaction will have real, harmful consequences for the thousands of people desperately seeking safety."

Also on rt.com Illegal US border crossings surge to highest level in two DECADES

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