Originally Published in The Hill
Mike Lillis - April 15, 2021
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday nudged President Biden to increase the number of refugees being accepted into the country, saying the United States has a moral responsibility to welcome those foreigners facing harm at home.
"We have a moral responsibility in the world — as every other country does, too — to receive refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution or harm [if they] return to their own country," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
The message came in the context of Pelosi's defense of the Biden administration's response to the wave of migrants streaming to the southern border.
But her shift to focusing on refugees — a program that runs independently of the traditional immigration system — was an unsubtle message to her White House ally that the administration needs to hike the current cap on refugees, which was established by Biden's predecessor, former President Trump.
In February, shortly after his inauguration, Biden had vowed to move quickly to restore the "badly damaged" refugee resettlement program. The program had accepted almost 85,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, but Trump cut the number incrementally over the course of his four year tenure.
The cap currently stands at 15,000 — the lowest figure since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. Biden vowed to hike the number to 125,000 in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged,” Biden said in February, as he signed a new executive order on the subject.
Two months later — with Republicans hammering him over the border surge — the president has yet to adopt the increase formally, sparking criticism from human rights advocates, who are pressing him to make good on his word.
Pelosi, without mentioning Biden or the administration, joined those critical voices on Thursday.
"We have to recognize our moral responsibility, as we see other countries take in refugees," she said. "I think right now we have — well it's a very few thousand. And we have to increase that number."