Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended President Biden’s backtracking on upholding the Trump’s administration’s decision to cap refugee admissions after an uproar from Democratic lawmakers.
Just hours after Biden signed an executive order Friday maintaining Trump’s annual 15,000 cap, prompting outcry from Dem pols, the president reversed course — and the White House later said a new limit would be announced next month.
“Look, the president’s been clear about where he wants to go, but we have to be, you know, focused on what we’re able to do when we’re able to do it,” Blinken said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The current 15,000 cap irked Democrats and immigration advocates, who expected the Biden administration to abide by a proposal sent to Congress earlier this year that called for 62,500 refugee admissions for this fiscal year. That cap was then to be raised to 125,000 in fiscal year 2022 under the plan.
“We’re able to start to bring people in who’ve been in the pipeline and who weren’t able to come in. That is starting today, and we’re going to revisit it in the middle of May,” Blinken said.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed the “decimated” refugee admissions program inherited from the Trump administration and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement for making that 62,500 goal “unlikely.”
Blinken echoed those sentiments Sunday.
“Based on what we’ve now seen from in terms of the inheritance and being able to look at what was in place, what we could put in place, how quickly we could put it in place, it’s going to be very hard to meet the 62,000 number this fiscal year,” he said, adding, “We’re going to be revisiting this over the coming weeks.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that Biden would raise the refugee cap but wouldn’t say how high.
“He is absolutely committed to making sure that America is not only welcoming to refugees. .. but also that we raise the cap. He is committed to that, and we are following through on that,” Sullivan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Sullivan said Biden’s first step was to end the Trump-era policies that banned refugees immigrating from parts of Africa and the Middle East and that the cap decision would come in a “second step.”
“He took the first step this past week, he will take the second in the weeks ahead,” Sullivan said.