President Joe Biden received some harsh criticism this week from members of his own party.
Progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MI) publicly criticized the president on Friday for maintaining the refugee cap set by the Trump administration, Breitbart reported.
Earlier this year, Biden had vowed to increase the number of refugees the U.S. would accept annually to as many as 65,000, up from the 15,000 cap set by former President Trump in 2020.
In a memo on refugee admissions released on Friday, however, the cap was still listed as 15,000, prompting backlash from Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and other progressive activists.
“Completely and utterly unacceptable,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday. “Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise.”
She continued: “Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise.”
Omar also attacked Biden on Twitter, writing, “As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world. It is shameful that @POTUS is reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees, moments after @RepSchakowsky @RepJayapal myself and others called on him to increase the refugee cap.”
In February, Biden told Congress he would increase the refugee cap to 62,500 by September 30, 2021, and that he would increase it to 125,000 the following year.
But in the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for 2021, while Biden did expand the number of regions from which individuals would be accepted as refugees, he retained the cap of 15,000 total.
Following the immediate backlash from the congresswomen and others, the White House seemingly succumbed to the pressure. When asked about the issue during Friday’s briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there would be “more news on this today, so stay tuned.”
In a follow up statement Friday, Psaki vowed that the refugee number would be increased by May 15. “For the past few weeks, he has been consulting with his advisors to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and October 1,” Psaki said in the statement. “Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.”
“While finalizing that determination, the President was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today’s order did that,” she added. “With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.”