Biden won’t raise refugee cap this fiscal year in a reversal on earlier pledge


WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 15: U.S. President Joe Biden announces new economic sanctions against the Russia government from the East Room of the White House on April 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden announced sanctions against 32 companies and individuals that are aimed at choking off lending to the Russian government and in response to the 2020 hacking operation that breached American government agencies and some of the nation's largest companies. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNN)President Joe Biden will sign a declaration on Friday to speed refugee admissions to the US but not raise the refugee cap, as he has committed to doing — a significant reversal from his administration’s proposal earlier this year to lift the cap to 62,500.

Instead, Biden will sign an emergency determination that keeps the Trump-era refugee cap of 15,000, but returns to regional allocations, in effect casting a wider net of who can arrive to the US under the refugee ceiling currently in place. Biden will not lift the refugee cap this fiscal year, according to an administration official, despite earlier pledges.

CNN previously reported the administration was considering stripping restrictions put in place by former President Donald Trump’s presidential determination to cast a wider net of refugees who can arrive in the US.

    The Biden administration has come under increased scrutiny over recent weeks for the delay in signing off on the proposed increase to the refugee ceiling. A group of House Democrats have circulated a letter urging Biden to sign the presidential determination, saying “lives depend on it.”

      Biden had resisted raising the Trump-era refugee cap because of political optics, sources have told CNN, at a time when the administration has been facing heat from Republicans and Democrats for its handling of an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border. But the situation at the US southern border is separate from the refugee program, which dates back decades and has a thorough vetting process in place for refugees overseas to resettle in the US.

        Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said to expect news on the Biden administration potentially raising the refugee cap when asked if the situation at the US-Mexico border has been the reason for the President’s delay.

        “But I would say that it is a factor. (The Office of Refugee Resettlement), which is a part of HHS, does do refugee — does do management, and had personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure there is capacity and ability to manage both,” Psaki added.

          In February, the State Department presented Congress with a plan to expand the 15,000 refugee cap put in place by Trump to allow up to 62,500 refugees to be resettled in the United States. As is normally the process, the State Department and White House had already agreed on the number.

          The proposal was also in line with Biden’s commitment during the campaign to raise the refugee ceiling and return the US to admitting a higher number of refugees after historic low arrivals under Trump. But with the situation on the US-Mexico border heating up, the proposal — and accompanying paperwork — stalled.

            The delay resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of refugee flights and left thousands of people expecting to arrive in the US after a years-long process in limbo.

            This is a breaking story and will be updated.