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Pelosi nudges Biden on accepting more refugees

Pelosi nudges Biden on accepting more refugees
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVaccinated lawmakers no longer required to wear masks on House floor Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday nudged President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE to increase the number of refugees being accepted into the country, saying the United States has a moral responsibility to welcome those foreigners facing harm at home.

"We have a moral responsibility in the world — as every other country does, too — to receive refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution or harm [if they] return to their own country," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

The message came in the context of Pelosi's defense of the Biden administration's response to the wave of migrants streaming to the southern border.

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But her shift to focusing on refugees — a program that runs independently of the traditional immigration system — was an unsubtle message to her White House ally that the administration needs to hike the current cap on refugees, which was established by Biden's predecessor, former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE.

In February, shortly after his inauguration, Biden had vowed to move quickly to restore the "badly damaged" refugee resettlement program. The program had accepted almost 85,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, but Trump cut the number incrementally over the course of his four year tenure.

The cap currently stands at 15,000 — the lowest figure since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. Biden vowed to hike the number to 125,000 in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged,” Biden said in February, as he signed a new executive order on the subject.

Two months later — with Republicans hammering him over the border surge — the president has yet to adopt the increase formally, sparking criticism from human rights advocates, who are pressing him to make good on his word.

Pelosi, without mentioning Biden or the administration, joined those critical voices on Thursday.

"We have to recognize our moral responsibility, as we see other countries take in refugees," she said. "I think right now we have — well it's a very few thousand. And we have to increase that number."