The White House said Friday that U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to increase the refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.
Except that while the Biden administration has certainly improved the federal government's approach to dealing with asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants, and the immigration system more broadly, there's at least one failing from the Trump era that Biden has inexplicably hesitated to fix: the disgracefully low number of refugees admitted to the United States.
Biden stated in his emergency determination that the admission of up to 15,000 refugees this year "remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest". "Kudos to the AP for not falling for the spin", the head Post fact-checker tweeted.
The declaration will bring back regional allocations, in effect casting a wider net of who can arrive to the United States under the historically low refugee ceiling now in place.
The Biden White House is now trying to do some cleanup, with a statement Friday afternoon by press secretary Jen Psaki saying, "The president's directive today has been the subject of some confusion".
The administration now says its widely-panned announcement was meant only to ease restrictions from countries from which refugees are banned and that Mr Biden would raise the cap by 15 May.
The White House on Friday walked back from keeping the current cap of 15,000 annual refugee admissions set by former President Donald Trump, hours after the directive evoked widespread backfire from Democratic lawmakers and groups representing refugees.
Reports say Mr Biden is concerned about letting in more people amid a record influx at the US-Mexico border.
"Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited", she said it's now "unlikely" Biden will be able to boost that number to 62,500, as he had proposed in his plan to Congress two months ago.
Ms Psaki said Mr Biden's order on Friday was meant to allow refugee flights to the USA to begin within days.
Because Trump's refugee limit is still in place, Biden has left 33,000 people who have already been approved to resettle in the United States in a state of uncertainty over their future.
Under Biden's new plan, the 15,000 slots would be allocated this way: 7,000 for Africa, 1,000 for East Asia, 1,500 for Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia, and 1,000 for an unallocated reserve. But this needn't be so complicated: Biden ought to just make good on his campaign promise by raising the cap significantly.
Left-wing NY congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong".
"It is a factor", said Psaki, noting that the Office of Refugee Resettlement "does management and has personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both".
Refugee resettlement agencies said it was important that admissions go higher even if it's not possible to meet the target to send a message that America will be a leader again in offering safe haven to the world's oppressed.
While those who step on USA soil are legally entitled to apply for asylum and can eventually appear before an immigration judge in the United States, refugees apply for protection overseas and are forced to clear multiple levels of vetting that can often take years.