CGRS Decries Biden Reversal on Refugee Admissions

Friday, April 16, 2021


This afternoon President Biden signed an emergency determination maintaining Donald Trump’s historically low refugee admissions goal of 15,000. The announcement was met with swift outcry, forcing the administration to backtrack and pledge to announce an increased admissions goal by May 15. The White House has indicated this new goal will still fall short of the president’s promise to admit up to 62,500 refugees this year. The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) is deeply disappointed by President Biden’s reversal on this commitment and by his delay in formalizing a higher admissions goal. The president’s inaction has left tens of thousands of refugees already approved for resettlement in dangerous and interminable limbo.

Journalists have reported that today’s decision was motivated by political concerns related to the humanitarian challenges at our southern border. This is the same cynical calculus that has led the administration to inexcusably retain Trump-era relics like the racist Title 42 expulsions policy. That the White House would use conditions at the border to justify the president’s decision is particularly baffling as the refugee admissions and asylum systems operate independently of one another.

“Welcoming the persecuted is our moral and legal obligation, and it is not a zero-sum game,” CGRS Legal Director Blaine Bookey said today. “The United States is more than capable of both resettling refugees and instituting a fair process for families, children, and adults seeking asylum at the border.”

The president’s about-face on resettlement is also at odds with his stated commitment to expanding legal avenues for Central American refugees to resettle in the United States without making the treacherous journey to claim asylum at the border. With refugee admissions slashed and asylum processing at a standstill, Central Americans and others seeking our country’s protection now have virtually no pathway to do so.

“While President Biden has repeatedly promised to welcome the persecuted, his misguided policy decisions are placing refugees in harm’s way at our border and across the globe,” CGRS Director Karen Musalo said today. “There is absolutely no moral, legal, or political justification. We urge the president to increase the Fiscal Year 2021 admissions goal to 62,500 as promised, and to do everything in his power to resettle as many refugees as possible this year.”