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The New Arab Staff

Ilhan Omar leads campaign against Biden's 'backtracking' refugee policy

Ilhan Omar urged President Biden to keep his pledges to refugees [Screenshot]

Date of publication: 21 April, 2021

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President Biden’s announcements on refugee numbers have been met with strong criticism from within the Democratic Party.


Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar is leading criticism against the Biden administration over what appears to be a breaking of a campaign promise to increase the number of refugees allowed into the US, which is currently at a historic low due to Trump-era policies.

Congresswoman Omar, who herself lived in a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, urged President Biden to keep his pledges to refugees in an interview with MSNBC.

"It’s with desperation and frustration that we are speaking out against the Biden administration in their backtracking on this," Omar said. "We do applaud them for changing course, and we just want to make sure they follow through with clear communication." 

President Biden announced on Friday that he intends to keep a 15,000 cap on refugees first introduced by former president Donald Trump, despite a campaign promise to increase the allowance on refugees.

In comparison, former president Barack Obama admitted over 100,000 refugees.

Biden’s announcement was swiftly met with a flurry of criticism, prompting the president to pledge to increase admissions "as appropriate", without specifying what the new numbers would be.

"The [policy isn’t] clear," Omar said.

Biden had initially promised "65 thousand or so refugees admitted this year and then increased next year". Omar, along with her supporters, had been "advocating so that the number doesn’t go below 50,000".

"What we were appalled to learn was that wasn’t going to happen. There’s been a backtracking," Omar said.

Biden said he would reveal more details about what the new refugee numbers in an announcement on 1 May.

Omar also slammed commentators who argued that an increase in refugees would create a capacity problem in the US.

"It’s a really long process. Capacity challenges at the border doesn’t apply with the resettlement program," Omar said.

"We forget how lengthy the process is. With my family it was one of the shortest process – a couple of years. For other families it could be 20 to go through the process of vetting and [choosing the] state to be resettled in."

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