Biden made a campaign pledge to drastically increase Trump's refugee cap of 15,000 per year to 125,000, and promised to "raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values, and the unprecedented global need".
"Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration's full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration", the letter, which was signed by at least 30 lawmakers, reads.
Refugee resettlement agencies said it was important that admissions go higher even if it's not possible to meet the target to send a message that America will be a leader again in offering safe haven to the world's oppressed.
© Elias Marcou/Reuters, FILE Refugees and migrants make their way in the Mavrovouni camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 29, 2021. Communities across the United States, from local groups to faith-based institutions, are ready to welcome these refugees. In the two months since Biden signed an executive order to reignite the refugee program, hundreds of refugees have been in limbo after their travel to the US was canceled pending a decision from Biden.
Refugee advocates said they were disappointed by the news, saying it was unjustified given that there are 35,000 refugees who have already been security vetted and cleared for entry to the United States and that there are 100,000 at various stages in the pipeline.
The Biden administration's recent budget proposal requested 4.3 billion USA dollars for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), setting a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022.
Biden will keep Trump's historically low cap on refugee admissions
Facing swift blowback from allies and aid groups, the White House said President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor's historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements.
Democrats blasted Friday's announcement in unusually strong criticism of a president from their own party.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Completely and utterly unacceptable". Stephen Miller, a key architect of Trump's immigration policies, tweeted that keeping Trump's cap "reflects Team Biden's awareness that the border flood will cause record midterm losses".
Left-wing NY congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong". As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden pledged to welcome 125,000 refugees during his first year in office.
Historically, the United States has had a refugee ceiling on average of 95,000 refugees per year. The White House has denied such accusations.
According to the report, midway through the 2021 fiscal year, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the U.S., marking a "new historical low".More news: Ontario reports 4,362 new coronavirus infections and 34 deaths; hospitalizations surpass 2,000
CNN, citing anonymous sources, reported on Thursday that Biden has allegedly resisted raising the refugee cap over political optics, as the surge of migrants, particularly children, continues to fill up government holding centres at the southern border. Refugee resettlement saves lives.
© Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021.
Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said "it is deeply disappointing that the administration has elected to leave in place the shameful, record low admissions cap of its predecessor". "And so, we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place".
Jenny Yang, senior vice-president at World Relief, a humanitarian organisation, told CNN that White House claims the U.S. refugee resettlement programme needed to be rebuilt after the Trump years was "a completely false narrative".
The announcement came after Biden was criticized by fellow Democrats for refusing to raise the cap as part of the determination he signed earlier in the day.
"Failing to issue a new Determination undermines your declared goal to reverse your predecessor's refugee policies", the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in a letter to Biden.More news: Pfizer defends high cost of Covid vaccine
One thing that is changing, though, is how the 15,000 slots for this year will be split up among different regions, according to the senior administration official. It also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees.
"This cruel policy is no more acceptable now than it was during the Trump Administration", Blumenthal said.
The order allocated 7,000 slots for refugees from Africa, 3,000 from Latin America, 1,500 from Europe and Central Asia, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia, and 1,000 from East Asia.
Early on Friday, the U.S. administration sent an email saying it would only accept 15,000 refugees in the fiscal year, which ends on 1 October.More news: India reports record 200,000 new covid-19 cases as outbreak spreads