US President Joe Biden on Saturday promised to increase the maximum number of refugees admitted to the country this year.
The announcement came after Biden on Friday signed an order to keep the historically low refugee admissions limit of 15,000.
His commitment to the cap, set by his predecessor Donald Trump, drew criticism from lawmakers and refugee advocacy groups.
The Biden administration had made plans in February to raise the refugee cap to 62,500.
Who will benefit from the increase?
Biden had initially allocated 7,000 for refugees from Africa, 1,000 from East Asia, 1,500 from Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 1,500 from the Middle East and South Asia.
But there will now be more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America. An exact number has not yet been provided.
Pressure at the US southern border
According to Biden, the “problem was the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up at the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number,” he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said the pressure at the southern border was “a factor.”
The Office of Refugee Resettlement “has personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both,” Psaki added.
Coming to the US as a refugee is different to claiming asylum at the border as a migrant
The US has seen record numbers of unaccompanied children from South and Central America at its southern border in the past months.
But the program for admitting refugees is distinct from the asylum system for migrants. Refugees must be vetted while still overseas and cleared for entry to the US. Migrants arrive at a US border and then request asylum.
The cap increase is expected to be implemented by mid-May.
kmm/sri (AP, Reuters)