President Joe Biden quickly reversed his call on the U.S. refugee cap following about 48 hours of backlash from activists. Flips like that have been rare in Biden’s first 100 days in office, which have been characterized by largely popular legislation and confidence from the administration. But the move is a reminder that voters aren’t willing to cut Biden slack on his campaign promises, and is an example of social media outrage creating actual policy change.
Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. refugee cap was brought to a historic low of 15,000, upsetting refugee allies and throwing the future of many faith-based nonprofits into question. Earlier this year, Biden pledged to raise the refugee cap to 62,500 — a number more in keeping with the normal levels and better suited to the current refugee crisis as record numbers of people continue to be displaced by war and famine.
However, reports on Friday indicated that Biden would not be changing the refugee cap after all, citing complications from the current surge of migrants to the southern border — particularly as it pertains to unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in their home countries. The Administration clearly did not anticipate the response, which amounted to a weekend of fury and disappointment from advocates before Biden relented. “We’re going to increase the number,” Biden told reporters. “We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number.”
He did not say what the number would be, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would name an “increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year” by May. Nevertheless, she did note that “given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.”
Still, activists took the concession as a qualified victory. A Quinnipiac poll showed that Americans largely disapprove of Biden’s handling of the southern border so far, with just 29 percent saying he’s handling it well. As the Democratic Party looks to expand their majorities in the midterm elections, finding a solution to the immigration situation is key. Listening to advocates is a start and it does look like, for the moment, that’s something Biden is willing to do.