I think it’s a bit early to make a declaration one way or the other, but today provided us with a useful data point in the “Biden is the next FDR” column. Let’s let CNN explain it:
President Joe Biden has resisted signing off on raising the Trump-era refugee cap because of political optics, sources have told CNN.
The President’s hesitation comes as the administration faces heat from Republicans and Democrats for its handling of an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border. But the situation at the US southern border is separate from the refugee program, which dates back decades and has a thorough vetting process in place for refugees overseas to resettle in the US.
One Democratic aide described what is unfolding as “vintage Biden” in terms of preserving his options so that he can maintain decision-making space for the one that best suits him politically.
The CNN story is a followup to a recent piece from the Washington Post which noted that Biden was set to accept the fewest number of refugees in modern American history:
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.
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. […]
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’s response to questions about this: shrug.
A cruel, stingy refugee policy from a Democratic president in a time of economic chaos? Now who does that remind me of? (Apart from Joe Biden, of course.)
As Nazi persecution of German Jews intensified throughout the 1930s, leading to a refugee crisis, [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt took limited action to respond to the humanitarian emergency. […]
In February 1939, Senator Robert Wagner (New York) and Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (Massachusetts) introduced bills proposing to admit 20,000 German refugee children into the United States outside the existing immigration quota. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out publicly in support of the bill, but the president did not comment. The Wagner-Rogers Bill never moved out of committee to a floor vote. In June 1939, the President similarly did not intervene to permit the entry of the refugees aboard the St. Louis; doing so would have required an executive order or an act of Congress. The refugees were sent to Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium after being turned back from Cuba and the United States.
Despite a building refugee crisis in Europe, FDR did not ask Congress to consider expanding the immigration quotas, even when presented with exceptional circumstances. Though Americans read about the persecution of German Jews in their local newspapers, few supported an increase in immigration, particularly while the country was still suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Some Congressmen introduced legislation that would reduce, rather than increase, the immigration quotas during this period. […]
Rumors also circulated that Jewish refugees posed a particular threat, because the Nazis would be able to hold hostage their loved ones still in enemy territory unless the refugee worked on behalf of Nazi Germany. At a press conference on June 5, 1940, FDR reinforced these fears, stating, “Now, of course, the refugee has got to be checked because, unfortunately, among the refugees there are some spies, as has been found in other countries. And not all of them are voluntary spies—it is rather a horrible story but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”
Whew. Now, before you go “Biden is not dealing with Hitler, it’s different,” yes, I am aware. But the parallels—of a president responding to a situation of great tragedy and harm with politically calculated indifference—are, shall we say, striking.
Maybe Joe Biden is the new FDR after all! Hey, Joe: what if you tried, say, not being completely fucked up about this?
Update, April 16, 1:54 p.m. ET: It’s official!
As many pointed out, this was a policy that Biden himself called “cruel and shortsighted” back in 2019. Now he’s signed up to it. But at least it’s for good reasons. Oh, wait, it’s not??
Repulsive. Hang your head in shame, Joe.
Update, April 16, 6:00 p.m. ET: Progress.