Biden Is Not Going to Reverse Trump's Xenophobic, Deadly Refugee Policy... For Now

Illustration for article titled Biden Is Not Going to Reverse Trump's Xenophobic, Deadly Refugee Policy... For Now
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With a single stroke of his pen, President Biden could reverse the Trump-era refugee cap, a ruling that dramatically reduced the number of refugees the United States can admit every year. But Biden hasn’t budged, and his reluctance is generating frustration among immigration advocates hoping for a fresh start from the Trump years, especially since Biden’s hesitancy coincides with the influx of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.


CNN reports the White House was already poised to sign off on admitting 65,000 refugees into the U.S. this year, and to bump that number up to 125,000 for 2022. But “political optics” has allegedly led to some serious delays.

From CNN (emphasis ours):

One Democratic aide described what is unfolding as “vintage Biden” in terms of preserving his options so that he can maintain decision-making space for the one that best suits him politically.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates, frustrated with the delay, have tried to seek answers from the administration but have fallen short. When asked by reporters about next steps, administration officials haven’t provided clarity, instead maintaining that the President is committed to the issue. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was committed to raising the refugee ceiling to 62,500 this fiscal year but she didn’t provide a timeline.


Democratic lawmakers worry that part of the White House’s calculation is that with the flow of migrants on the southern border, raising the refugee cap now — even though it is an entirely different program — could become a political problem. But many Democratic senators argue that it’s a separate program and should be treated as such.

While lawmakers are largely giving Biden the benefit of the doubt, refugees are getting screwed over. Take this CNN report from March about the refugees who are being removed from flights and forced to endure longer waits thanks to this inaction:

In one case, a Congolese family of five set to depart Uganda, where they’ve been staying since fleeing war and violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo, had their flight canceled this week, said Becca Schwartz, resettlement director of Jewish Social Services of Madison, Wisconsin.

“We didn’t expect this. And it’s hard to understand why it’s happening,” Schwartz said.

“Each day that passes without this signed executive action is another day that hundreds of particularly vulnerable refugees are forced to wait to be resettled,” said John Slocum, interim executive director of Refugee Council USA, in a statement.

In another example provided by refugee resettlement organization HIAS, a 30-year-old pregnant Congolese woman was vetted and approved to fly to the U.S. last month, but her ticket was canceled because Biden had not yet signed the executive order as promised. Now, she’s in her third trimester and can no longer travel.

Before leaving office, then-President Obama raised the refugee admittance cap to 110,000 to help accommodate Syrian refugees. But once Trump was inaugurated in 2017, he implemented a total freeze on refugee admittance for the rest of the calendar year, a galling new policy born from the nativist imagination of his notoriously racist policy advisor, Stephen Miller. Miller was also instrumental in the refugee cap the Trump administration set for 2018: 45,000, a number that Miller reportedly still considered far too high (Miller has sincerely suggested the cap be set to zero). With each year of Trump’s tenure, the refugee cap dropped: 30,000 in 2019 and 18,000 in 2020. Trump set the cap to 15,000 for 2021.


With every passing day the refugee cap stands at 15,000, Miller and his greasy bald head win. That thought alone should keep everyone in the Biden administration up at night.

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.



This is nothing short of pathetic, sniveling cowardice that leaves the most vulnerable people in the world to suffer. Biden ran against Trumpism, and one of the defining elements of Trumpism is xenophobia, and one of the defining elements of that xenophobia was this horrific, unjustifiable refugee cap. The Biden administration dragging its feet on this is inexcusable. They are completely fucking up on immigration, not doing nearly enough to stop the cruelty of the Trump administration (and of course, they will never be cruel enough for Republicans to stop screaming “OPEN BORDERS”).

I’m glad that, after initial reporting that the Biden administration would not raise the cap generated significant, justifiable outrage, they backed off that a bit and seem now to be dedicated to raising the cap somewhat by May 15. But they are already laying the groundwork for not raising it as much as they promised. Fuck them for that, fuck them for even considering not raising the cap, and fuck them for this absurd delay that will now stretch yet another month.

ETA: It’s also worth noting that U.S. actions, including those taken by the Obama administration in which Biden was a part, are either directly or indirectly responsible for many of the various refugee crises around the world.  So in that vein, Biden’s dissembling on this is even more indefensible.