“Mark Hetfield, the president of HIAS, a Jewish refugee resettlement organization, said the ‘talking points’ he kept hearing from [Press Secretary Jen] Psaki and others suggested that Biden has ‘an unwavering commitment to the refugee program,” the report continued. But as Hetfield correctly noted during the meeting, Biden delayed signing the presidential determination for two months, stranding hundreds of refugees in the process. When he finally did sign it, it was to keep the previous administration’s outrageously low cap in place.
Following the blowback, Psaki said in a statement that the president would be setting an increased refugee cap by May 15. That statement, however, cautioned that the president’s 62,500 proposal from February was “unlikely,” citing “the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement.” But refugee resettlement agencies were the ones calling on the Biden administration to act on the 62,500 cap in the first place, and they have also correctly pointed out that refugee and asylum admissions are two different systems.
Continued pressure on the Biden administration could now result in a major victory for refugees and their advocates, as “people inside and outside the White House suddenly sound hopeful about landing at or near the number the Biden administration announced with some fanfare in February,” The Post said. Following news earlier this month that Biden would raise the cap by next month, Hatfield said he prayed the “administration keeps its promise and its courage to see the reforms through and restore America’s leadership,” adding, “lives depend on it.”
Reports from The Post and The New York Times point to political reasoning for the president backing down from his initial humanitarian pledge,” as advocates had suspected. The latter report said that Biden claimed the new cap “would invite from Republicans new attacks of hypocrisy and open borders,” and pointed to “federal agencies already struggling to manage the highest number of migrant children and teenagers at the border in more than a decade.”
But, once again, these are two different systems, and Republicans are going to fearmonger anyway. When the Republican Party is taking its immigration messaging from anti-immigrant hate groups, one gets the impression they’re not that serious about immigration. The Biden administration should do the right thing and not pee its pants over bad-faith complaints, and instead fulfill its pledge to welcome refugees. It’s always the right time to do the right thing.
“What lessons should the Biden administration learn from last Friday’s back and forth over refugee numbers?” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry said in a statement. “As someone who has been immersed in immigration politics and policy for decades, here are my top takeaways. The immigration debate is not about numbers anchored in fears, it’s about solutions anchored in our values. Step back and you’ll get run over. Lean in and you’ll win. Trust your heart, Mr. President. You got this.”