Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap
President Biden is facing new pressure from Senate Democrats to increase the number of refugees being admitted into the United States.
Thirty-four Senate Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter, spearheaded by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to Biden urging him to lift the cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 for the current fiscal year and to set it at a minimum of 125,000 for fiscal 2022, which starts Oct. 1.
“The United States must reject the previous Administration’s cruel legacy of anti-refugee policies and return to our longstanding bipartisan tradition of providing safety to the world’s most vulnerable refugees,” the senators wrote in the letter, referring to the Trump administration’s decision to set the cap at a historic low of 15,000.
The letter comes after Biden sparked fierce backlash from Democrats when the White House, in a letter to the State Department, initially said it would keep the 15,000 former limit set under Trump.
The White House then walked that back saying Biden will announce a final decision on the refugee cap by May 15.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that it was again considering raising the refugee cap to 62,500, for the current fiscal year. Though White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t dispute that, she warned reported that it would be “challenging.”
“If the cap is close to that or at that, it will continue to be challenging but there are considerations including the message we are sending to the world and also the need to get the muscles working in the system in the federal government but also with 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,” Psaki told reporters.
Biden pledged as a presidential candidate to increase the cap to 125,000, adding that he was committed to raising that number over time. The administration then proposed in February raising the ceiling to 62,500 for the 2021 fiscal year.
In addition to Schumer and Durbin, Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ed Markey (Mass), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Mark Warner (Va.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Tom Carper (Del.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M) signed the letter.
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