Biden Taking Fewer Refugees Than Trump!!!

Stenography is not journalism.

I was incredulous when I saw the headline, “Biden set to accept fewest refugees of any modern president, including Trump, report says,” attached to Amy Wang’s WaPo report. Surely, it couldn’t be right?

Well, sure enough, a “report” says just that. But it’s a publicity stunt from a lobbying group seeking to call attention to an unexplained technicality.

Since his days on the campaign trail, President Biden has tried to cast himself as diametrically opposed to President Donald Trump when it comes to welcoming refugees into the United States.

Within two weeks of taking office, Biden signed an executive order to rebuild and enhance federal programs to resettle refugees — programs he said had been “badly damaged” under the Trump administration. Biden also revoked some restrictive immigration policies Trump had put in place, including ones that sought to ban refugees from certain countries. In February, Biden announced he was raising the annual cap on refugee admissions to 125,000 for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, up from Trump’s historically low limit of 15,000.

So, Biden is on pace to increase the number of refugee admissions more than eightfold. That’s the opposite of what the headline suggests.

However, Biden has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination. Without that action, Trump’s old policies and his 15,000-person cap on refugee settlements remain in effect.

Well . . . okay. But the fiscal year starts on October 1. It’s . . . April 12. We still have a few months.

Signing a presidential determination typically takes place almost immediately after such policy announcements. The delay has so far lasted eight weeks.

So, this is very interesting. But figuring out why that is (more on that later) should be the focus of the story. Instead, we get bullshit stenography masquerading as journalism:

Because of it, Biden is on track to accept the fewest refugees this year of any modern president, including Trump, according to a report released Friday from the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit humanitarian aid group.

The Biden administration has admitted only 2,050 refugees at the halfway point of this fiscal year, despite Biden’s promises to reverse Trump-era immigration policies, dramatically raise the cap on refugee settlements and respond to what his officials have called “unforeseen and urgent situations,” the IRC report noted.

The group estimated that, at the current pace and without the reversal of Trump-era policies, the Biden administration will admit only about 4,510 refugees into the United States this fiscal year, less than half of the figure admitted in Trump’s final year.

The IRC is a lobbying group with a single-issue focus. They’re shrewdly using a blip in the data to call attention to their pet issue. That’s their job. But why is WaPo going along with it? There’s simply no reason at all to believe that this trend is likely to continue. Biden has been in office less than three months.

“I don’t know the specific reason why [Biden] hasn’t signed, and it’s really unusual that he hasn’t signed,” said Nazanin Ash, the IRC’s vice president for global policy and advocacy. “It is typically a standard, automatic last step in the process.”

A State Department representative on Sunday referred all questions about the presidential determination on refugee admissions to the White House. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

It was a fucking Sunday. Neither State nor the White House are going to handle ridiculous, non-emergency queries on a fucking Sunday. And this was published to the web at 6:16 pm. How much time did she even allow? And why did her editors allow this tripe to go on under their prestigious banner?

The IRC report criticized the delay as “unexplained” and “unjustified,” particularly amid worsening refugee crises in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It also said the administration was neglecting to use refugee resettlement as a “critical tool” to address the sharp increase in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. This fiscal year, the United States has admitted only 139 refugees from the “Northern Triangle” countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Migrants at the US-Mexico border are, almost exclusively, economic. Whether we should let them in is a reasonable subject for debate. But almost none of them are refugees under international law.

Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Convention defines a refugee as an individual who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence who is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group

Regardless, unless Biden is deliberately not signing the order so as to dodge his own policy—for which there is zero evidence and which would make no sense whatsoever—it’s only technically true that the delay is “unjustified.” Maybe some enterprising reporter could ask them on, say, a work day.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Borders and Immigration, Media, Middle East, Religion, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I haven’t delved into the specifics, but the Biden admin has apparently just reached an agreement with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to tighten up their borders in order to stem immigration seeking at the US border.

  2. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Dr. J, based on language alone, I suspect lying weasels in suits (and their friends with steno pads instead of reporter’s notebooks) hit a hot button last night. It’s one I share. I get irritated when reporters take the cheap/easy/lazy way out. Frankly, I’d have liked this question to come up at daily pressing instead of ‘how many times has the Biden dog shot on the carpet?’

  3. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Sh*t not shot. Don’t think the dogs can use a .40 Glock

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: Pistols are hard to hold when you don’t have an opposable thumb. What count as fingers on a dog’s paw are short, too.