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WaPo: Biden now back to original refugee cap -- we think

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Is there any aspect to the Biden administration that comes from careful planning, research, and execution? Or is this White House simply making up policy as it goes along? Its responses to COVID-19, economic plans, and immigration policy all suggest that their positions change with the wind.

That’s particularly true on the latter. Joe Biden campaigned on opening up the border, explicitly so in promising an end to the Remain in Mexico policy negotiated by Donald Trump. He and his team made a particular point of promising humane treatment of migrants and expanded asylum opportunities, only to be shocked, shocked when this new set of incentives touched off the worst migrant crisis in at least twenty years. Almost immediately, the White House began wildly shifting its rhetoric in a failed attempt to stave off more migration, and the situation has worsened ever since.

It wasn’t just rhetoric that shifted wildly, either. Biden had promised to lift the cap on refugees before taking office from 15,000 to 62,500 this year. As criticisms mounted, Biden announced that he would keep the cap in place — only to reverse himself almost immediately when even more criticism came from progressive allies.

Still, that left everyone scratching their heads on what Biden planned to do on refugees. The Washington Post reports today that Biden plans to go back to his first announcement … they think:

The White House is again considering setting the number of refugees who can enter the United States through September at about 62,500, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, under pressure from immigrant rights groups furious about President Biden’s recent retreat from that target.

Less than two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden intends to announce a new cap for the fiscal year by May 15, but signaled that his original target was no longer realistic, people inside and outside the White House suddenly sound hopeful about landing at or near the number the Biden administration announced with some fanfare in February.

One of the people familiar with the deliberations attributed the moving target in part to a review the White House is conducting of policy developments, progress and legal considerations relevant to the decision.

The people familiar with the deliberations, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks and emphasized that no final decisions have been made and that the timing of an announcement was up in the air. The White House has changed course abruptly before, including over the span of several hours on a single day this month, giving people inside and outside the building pause about drawing definitive conclusions about the plan.

Here’s a question: what are the deliberations about? Presumably, a president would have held these kinds of deliberations in the first place before announcing a quadrupling of the open slots for refugees in the current fiscal year. The discussions of capacity and processing resources should have been finalized before the first announcement, not after three policy changes in three months based on mean tweets aimed at the president.

Perhaps the White House deliberations are now on capacity and resources, but the track record on this doesn’t instill much confidence in that process. It seems more likely that the deliberations are still focused on what matters most to Biden and his team — social media acceptance. Biden’s immigration policies shift in the wind so much that they might qualify for renewable-energy subsidies at some point.

It’s not just on immigration, either. Biden will announce a new set of mask guidelines later today from the CDC, which has been remarkably unwilling to revisit this issue until now. Over a month ago, states with good outdoor weather such as Texas and Florida ended mask mandates entirely and fully reopened for business, and have seen no new spikes in cases, hospitalizations, or deaths. That should have had the CDC rethinking outdoor masking guidelines at least, especially since it’s been known for almost a year that outdoor transmission is nearly unknown for COVID-19.

Of late, various liberal and progressive platforms have begun criticizing the CDC for sticking to a useless outdoor-masking recommendation. That’s what appears to be pushing Biden into reworking the masking guidelines, rather than the science that’s been widely available since last summer.

This is not an administration with a plan, strategic or tactical. It’s an administration with an agenda, but one that is otherwise entirely reactionary and arbitrary. In every step this administration takes, it reduces any confidence that Biden is applying expertise and competence, but instead is just reacting to whatever is trending on Twitter.