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U.S. administration announces intention to cut refugee cap again as humanitarian needs grow

Refugee cap of 30,000 another hit for U.S. humanitarian leadership

The U.S. Administration today announced its intention to lower annual refugee admissions to 30,000 in FY2019, a 33 percent drop from 2018’s record-low ceiling of 45,000.

In so doing, the United States is not only abdicating humanitarian leadership and responsibility-sharing in response to the worst global displacement and refugee crisis since World War II, but compromising critical strategic interests and reneging on commitments to allies and vulnerable populations, including religious minorities and those whose lives are in danger because they assisted U.S. troops and U.S. missions overseas.

Policy impacts have spared no group:

  • Through August 31 arrivals for Christians, some persecuted, are down over 40 percent this year;
  • Muslim refugee admissions are down by nearly 90 percent in the same time period;
  • Syrian arrivals for this year stand at 60 people as of August 31, despite the horrific violence Syrians continue to face and the fact that allies in the region are hosting over 5 million refugees;
  • Just five Yazidis, a brutally persecuted religious minority, have been admitted this year;
  • Admissions of Rohingya refugees are down over 40 percent after nearly one million fled atrocities committed against them last year; and
  • Through August 15, just 48 Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they assistance U.S. missions - have been admitted, while over 100,000 await admission as of the end of July.

For more on the impacts see here.

Said Nazanin Ash, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, International Rescue Committee:

The Administration has chosen to further cut the number of refugees who will be admitted to the U.S., undermining a powerful tool to help the most vulnerable populations, aid the most unstable regions, and advance U.S. security and strategic interests.

Today’s announcement of the Administration’s intention means it has further reduced its promise to protect these vulnerable populations, backpedalling on promises to religious minorities, a commitment to leave no one behind who assisted U.S. troops, and on strategic goals in some of the most volatile regions in the world.

The refugee program was already reviewed, strengthened, and deemed safe and secure to restart by the Administration. This was an opportunity for the Administration to show its humanitarian heart following its attacks on asylum; temporary protected status for Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and others; and unaccompanied minors.

In justifying its policy intention, the Administration has pitted those seeking asylum against refugees. A choice between asylum programs and refugee programs is a false one. The Administration has the resources it needs to effectively administer both programs, as historic admissions levels prove. The U.S. refugee admissions cap since 1980 had averaged over 95,000 annually prior to this administration, with past Republican presidents setting its highest admissions levels.

Refugees are displaced for 10 years on average and many are displaced for over 20 years with no hope of a safe return. Refugee resettlement is a permanent solution with limited up-front costs that result in net benefits to the economy as refugees rebuild their lives in the U.S. In stark contrast, temporary assistance can last for decades, leaving refugees in limbo and with multiplying costs for refugee-hosting countries and major donors like the U.S. The security, economic benefit, and strategic importance of the refugee admissions program has been proven and validated by successive Republican and Democrat administrations. The administration’s departure from history sets a dangerous precedent at a time of great global crisis.

Since the start of the modern refugee resettlement program, the U.S. refugee admissions ceiling has been set based on global humanitarian need, capacity of the resettlement program, and U.S. strategic interests. The IRC’s position is that the U.S. admissions ceiling, to ensure continued U.S. global leadership, must be at least 75,000 refugees. For more on that policy position, visit here. To share your opinion and take action today, visit here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.