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Biden administration announces increased refugee cap after Democratic backlash to lower number

Earlier cap had been slammed as "simply unacceptable and unconscionable."

Updated: April 16, 2021 - 7:08pm

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The Joe Biden administration on Friday announced it would be raising the cap of refugees permitted into the U.S. this year after sharp Democratic criticism over an initial, lower number first announced. 

Democrats in Congress on Friday had slammed Biden for his decision to maintain a 15,000 cap on refugees this year, a number in line with those of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

But just hours after that decision was announced, following widespread Democratic criticism of the move, the White House announced it would be raising the cap to an undefined number. 

Biden is expected to "set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday afternoon. 

The president had earlier in the day been on the receiving end of significant criticism from his fellow Democrats in Congress. 

Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the decision "simply unacceptable and unconscionable."

"After four painful years of fighting Trump's all-out draconian assault on immigrants, President Biden promised to restore America as a beacon of hope and committed to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers," Jayapal said on her congressional website, claiming that "by failing to sign an Emergency Presidential Determination to lift Trump's historically low refugee cap, President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity."

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, urged Biden in a letter to "demonstrate [the country's] robust commitment as a nation by resettling the world's most vulnerable refugees."

"As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, resettlement serves as a critical tool in providing protection to those fleeing persecution," Menendez added.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, meanwhile, wrote on his senatorial website that the Biden administration's refugee target was "unacceptable."

"These refugees can wait years for their chance and go through extensive vetting," Durbin wrote. "Thirty-five thousand are ready. Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time there is no reason to limit the number to 15,000. Say it ain't so, President Joe."

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