Biden Breaks With His Own Admin And Calls Border Situation A ‘Crisis,’ Defends 180 On Refugees

(Photo by Amr Alfiky-Pool/Getty Images)

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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President Joe Biden broke with his own administration Saturday, referring to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border as a “crisis” for the first time.

Biden, after playing golf in Wilmington, Delaware, took a moment to address his position on refugee admissions — which he had reversed on Friday.

“We’re going to increase the number [of refugees allowed into the country]. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people,” Biden said. “We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number.” (RELATED: White House Backtracks After Top Dems Slam Biden’s Decision To Keep Trump’s Refugee Caps In Place)

The president’s surrogates have pushed back on a number of occasions, saying that the situation at the border was a “challenge” rather than a “crisis.”

Biden’s position on refugee admission has gone through a series of changes in recent weeks, beginning with his February promise to raise the cap to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022 that begins in October. In conjunction, Biden promised a “down payment” on that in the coming months.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested raising the cap from 15,000 — the number set by former President Donald Trump — to 62,000, but Biden signed an emergency presidential determination Friday that kept the limit at 15,000 for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

Members of Biden’s own party were quick to voice their displeasure that he was keeping Trump’s refugee cap in place.

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the move “utterly unacceptable,” noting that there were some who had voted for Biden because of his promise to allow more refugees into the country.

“Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl [sic] the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong,” she said.

Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin was critical of the move as well, saying, “This Biden Administration refugee admissions target is unacceptable. These refugees can wait years for their chance and go through extensive vetting.  Thirty-five thousand are ready. Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time there is no reason to limit the number to 15,000.  Say it ain’t so, President Joe.”

Following the backlash, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reversed course and promised  a new, increased refugee cap to be announced by mid-May.

“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” Psaki said, adding, “We expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.”