New York, NY, September 26, 2019 — Today, through the Presidential Determination on refugees, the Trump Administration confirmed it is proposing an annual admissions ceiling for refugees at 18,000 for fiscal year 2020. This represents another drastic reduction in the United States’ refugee admissions goal, which on average has exceeded 95,000 since 1980.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee:
“This is a very sad day for America. This decision represents further damage to America’s leadership on protecting the most vulnerable people around the world. It has no basis in logic or need, damages America’s interests, and tarnishes her values.
“It is an unspeakable setback for refugee mothers who wish to see their children in school, parents who wish to work and support their family, and children who deserve a chance at life that isn’t solely defined by the instability and the trauma of their childhood.
“Refugee Resettlement is an essential lifeline that the U.S. provides for the most vulnerable refugees at a time of unprecedented global crisis. Historic bipartisan support for this program – providing safety for persecuted people – has demonstrated U.S. values in action.
“With the administration slashing admissions and disregarding this bipartisan tradition, Congress has the power to act to uphold America’s legacy by passing the GRACE Act which would set 95,000 as the minimum annual goal in line with historic norms.”
The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) sets the gold standard for refugee resettlement programs, providing protection for the world’s most vulnerable refugees. Only the most critical cases are referred and approved for resettlement – survivors of unspeakable violence, those with urgent health conditions, and those separated from their families among others. The United States currently has 30,000 people who have completed Department of Homeland Security interviews for resettlement, far above the Presidential Determination announced. Nearly 9,000 are ready for travel.
After three consecutive cuts to refugee admissions levels, the U.S. administration’s diminishment of the resettlement program will have considerable consequences for communities around the United States. IRC will continue to operate in the United States and will continue to serve clients who will now need services more than ever.
For those not yet admitted, it reneges on promises made to people who supported U.S. military missions abroad – at considerable risk to their families and themselves – as well as persecuted religious minorities. Paradoxically, the administration has argued the prioritization of protection for these vulnerable groups.
It will likewise hold an opportunity cost for the United States. A halt to resettlement means many refugees in our communities will be left without casework expertise that is key to success in their integration – undermining the documented potential of refugees to realize and contribute. Refugees are entrepreneurial, creating jobs and adding vibrancy to local economies, and refugees have filled critical healthcare and transportation jobs in some of the nation’s tightest labor markets.
The IRC implores the U.S. Congress to assert its authority on the refugee resettlement program, restoring moral and strategic leadership to the United States. Congress must move the GRACE Act in order to return refugee admissions goals to the historic average of 95,000, the result of Republican and Democratic admissions alike.