At a White House press conference this week, Biden administration press secretary Jen Psaki criticized ex-President Donald Trump over his administration’s “xenophobic” immigration policies that the Biden administration has been working to dismantle while in power. When still in office, the Trump administration repeatedly lowered the number of refugees that the U.S. would accept per year to the point that in fiscal year 2020, the cap stood at just 15,000 — and the administration didn’t even hit its self-set limit. Across that fiscal year, just 11,814 people were resettled in the U.S. as refugees.
The Trump administration set a cap of 15,000 refugees for fiscal year 2021 as well, but the Biden administration has sought to lift restrictions. The Washington Post reported this week that the Biden team was “again considering setting the number of refugees who can enter the United States through September at about 62,500,” and for fiscal year 2022, the Biden administration is apparently exploring going higher.
In response to questioning about what “considerations” were weighing on the Biden administration’s development of their refugee policies for the rest of this fiscal year, Psaki commented as follows on Wednesday:
‘We inherited an incredibly broken system. It left us… the president [and] others with some skepticism about what the system would bear. Hence our announcement a couple of weeks ago was meant to be a first step, focused on announcing the resumption of flights and also the overturning of the xenophobic policies of the last administration that prevented refugees from applying from Africa and the Middle East. That has changed — that was the biggest hindrance to refugees being able to apply from that part of the world.’
In contrast to the Trump administration’s approach, Psaki added that the Biden administration is seeking to share a “message” with the world that the United States is “welcoming refugees.” In 2016, the last year of the Obama-Biden administration, nearly 85,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. As Psaki put it:
‘One of the considerations at this point in time as we’re determining what the cap will look like is what message we’re sending to the world. We are a country, under the Biden-Harris administration, where we want to send a clear message: We are welcoming refugees. We want to send that message to the world. We want to send that message to the refugee community and to organizations that have been underfunded that have had their muscles atrophied over the past couple of years where that was not a primary focus.’
Check out Psaki’s comments below:
Separately, the Biden administration has already moved to end other Trump era immigration policies including southern border wall construction. Throughout their time in power, Trump officials prioritized spending resources on pointlessly punitive projects like the “wall” instead of, among other possibilities, further expanding the United States capacity to handle individuals arriving at the southern border.