Finding itself caught between appeasing its far-left base and responding to cratering poll numbers on immigration, the Biden administration this week was forced to walk back yet another promise made by the president earlier this year.
As Reuters reports, an order signed by President Joe Biden on Friday caps the number of refugee admissions permitted this year to 15,000 – equal to a limit set by former President Donald Trump – in a complete reversal of his earlier pledge to increase the tally to 62,000.
The furor stems from the fact that back in February, Biden vowed that the Trump-era refugee cap of 15,000 would be increased by a substantial margin for the remainder of this year and ultimately raised to 125,000 next year, as Politico noted. However, on Friday, administration officials made it clear that the cap would not in fact be immediately raised, in what many viewed as a failure to fulfill a promise to supporters.
Biden’s move, however, sparked an instant outcry from Democrat legislators as well as refugee advocates, which prompted the president to then suggest that he would revisit the subject and announce a “final, increased refugee cap” for the rest of the fiscal year by mid-May.
According to NPR, the reaction from the left was swift and damning, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) declaring the 15,000 limit “unacceptable,” adding, “Say it ain’t so, President Joe.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) echoed Durbin’s sentiment, calling the move not just unacceptable, but “unconscionable” as well.
A letter signed by Rep. Jayapal together with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) lamented the decision, saying, as NPR reported:
Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration’s full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration.
But until the Emergency Presidential Determination is finalized, our refugee policy remains unacceptably draconian and discriminatory.
Though the administration attempted to quash speculation that the decision came in response to the president’s cratering poll numbers on his handling of the migrant crisis at the southern border, there is no denying that the administration has taken a serious hit due to the escalating humanitarian crisis it has allowed to unfold in recent months.
Nevertheless, Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan maintained that while the increases in refugee admissions desired by the left may not happen right away, the administration “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.”
Considering the highly controversial nature of refugee resettlement programs in localities across the nation and the thin ice on which the Biden administration is already treading due to the chaos at the border, the president may want to rethink whether caving to the far left on this issue really is in his party’s best interests.