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‘US can’t do two things at once’: Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

US President Joe Biden on Saturday explained his initial decision to not increase the limit on refugee admissions to the United States stating that his administration “couldn’t do two things at once”.

Biden while speaking to reporters in Delaware said that he couldn’t initially increase the cap due to burdens that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is facing because of a rise in unaccompanied child migrants at the southern US border.

“We’re going to increase the number. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people,” Biden said according to a White House pool report, as cited by The Hill.

“We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number,” he continued.

According to The Hill, the comment comes a day after the White House reversed course on a decision to keep the number of refugees allowed into the US at levels that were in place under the former President Donald Trump. The decision was made following ‘blowback’ from Democrats who wanted to see a higher cap.

The President signed an order on Friday maintaining the 15,000 cap on refugee admissions for fiscal year 2021, a controversial number set by the previous Trump administration. It is also far below the cap of 62,500 that Biden wanted to put in place for 2021.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat from New York), called on the president to “keep [his] promise” to “welcome immigrants.”

“Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong,” she tweeted.

The Hill reported that Like Biden’s comments on Saturday, Psaki said the initial decision was due to changes made by Trump and ORR’s handling of the influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the border

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later said that a new, higher ceiling would be set on 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 part. “Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.

ORR is the office within the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for housing the minors.

The Hill citing The Wall Street Journal reported that it has already went through $1.3 billion of its budget handling the influx of migrants, which would likely make it hard to raise the refugee cap.

Biden is aiming to increase the refugee cap to 125,000 in his first year in office and has requested a USD 4.3 billion budget for ORR for 2022 with that goal in mind.

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