Biden nods to public opinion
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s early decision to let stand Donald Trump’s limits on refugee entries to only 15,000 applicants — instead of a previously planned boost to 62,500 — triggered such outcry from liberals and progressives that he has quickly reversed himself.
While Biden says the U.S. cannot accommodate that higher figure right now, he has recommitted to restoring the nation’s reputation as the haven for the world’s most oppressed seeking new lives within our borders.
Biden has pledged doubling the earlier figure to 125,000 in the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1, signaling a long-term recognition of one of America’s proudest engagements in the relief of political refugees.
Still, it may come as a shock that the United States no longer is the prime recipient of foreign refugees, having fallen behind our neighbor Canada, whose population is barely one-tenth of our own.
Biden’s sudden switch on the policy may well bring him criticism for flip-flopping. But doing so also has demonstrated a timely willingness to pay more attention to the considerable voices on the left of his Democratic Party, who have come to his side after their own support of the 2020 presidential nomination candidacy of Vermont Sanders fell short last year.
That backing of the progressive wing of that party, with Sanders himself largely lining up behind Joe Biden in the first 100 days of his administration, has enabled the new president to pursue aggressively much of his ambitious policy of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and its damage to the economy.
Biden’s early assertiveness appears to have surprised and pleased many American voters.
Although Biden’s overwhelming focus so far has been on domestic affairs, many observers anticipate great things from him in foreign affairs, a realm in which he has deep experience.
As vice president in Barack Obama’s administration, Biden was the point man in overseeing the flood of migrants from the so-called Northern Triangle of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador who were fleeing oppression and seeking asylum in the U.S.
Before that, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was a frequent globe-trotter who made contact with a wide collection of foreign leaders.
His early course-correction on refugee admissions should be a reassurance to his old foreign policy associates that he has not forgotten nor is neglecting his long commitment to America’s leadership on human rights.