News & Views

Stop the Administration from Dismantling the Refugee Resettlement Program

“…I would not be surprised if we just don’t have this program anymore,”
—Jennifer Quigley, an advocacy strategist for refugee protection at Human Rights First

We’re still upset about the separation of children from their families. We’re still working to ensure that the last are re-unified. But unfortunately, we must also make room for focusing attention on the Refugee Resettlement Program. In seven weeks, if we don’t mobilize, the United States Refugee Resettlement Program is at risk of being dismantled.

In the last two weeks, there have been strong and growing rumors that the President is seeking to lower the ceiling of refugee admissions for this coming year from 45,000 to 25,000 and that even at 25,000, the real intention is permit no more than 15,000 refugees into the country. If this happens, the refugee resettlement program will be dismantled.

To give some context, every year since the unanimous passage of the Refugee Act in 1980, the President has set the number of refugees no lower than 60,000 and sometimes as high as 200,000. Even after the events of September 11, the ceiling was set at 60,000 and, although only 27,000 refugees were ultimately allowed into the country in 2002, then President George W. Bush publicly stated that he recognized the importance of the refugee resettlement program and wanted to ensure that the number of refugees that the U.S. resettled would increase. After that year, they did.

It is estimated that the U.S. will resettle barely 22,000 refugees for this year. If the ceiling and entry allowances are even lower in 2019, the infrastructure that has been developed in order to be able to resettle refugees will crumble and the United States’ involvement in refugee resettlement will go away.

Why is this a problem, apart from the obviously humanitarian and moral reasons? Because today, there are 65 million displaced persons in the world all seeking a safe home. If the United States completely relinquishes its leadership role in ensuring the safe resettlement of displaced persons and pulls out of this international peace-keeping program, it will give permission for other leaders to bar refugees from their own countries. This is devastating for global peace and welfare. Refugees are desperate. They flee war and violence and near starvation. They simply try to survive and keep their kids alive. Turning our backs on a large and growing group of desperate people can only result in violence. It is for this reason that our Federal Department of Defense is fighting the government’s current position. But so far, they are not being included in critical conversations about it held by other government officials.

By September 30, in accordance with the Federal Refugee Act of 1980, the President, in consultation with the Judiciary Committee of Congress, will set the ceiling of refugees that will be allowed into the country. If he is allowed to set the ceiling even lower than it currently is, the entire U.S. resettlement program’s existence will be under threat.

Refugee Resettlement has, until now, been a bi-partisan program, recognized for its role in keeping the peace, building the economies of the places where refugees have been resettled and saving lives. In light of all of this, we are asking you to call your Congressional Representatives from both parties and make three very specific asks:

We need you to call your Congressional Representatives from both parties and ask them to:

  1. Do everything within their power to make sure that the Judiciary Committee’s hearing regarding the refugee ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year is a robust hearing where the benefits of the program as well as the rising levels of need are fairly considered (in the past this “hearing” has often been a simple meeting where the President sets the number and the committee approves without question)
  2. Do everything in their power to hold a public hearing in Congress, where high level officials within the Department of Defense as well as refugees themselves are invited to come and speak about the program – the benefits it provides and the devastation that would occur if it was allowed to be dismantled.
  3. Demand that at least 75,000 refugees be permitted to resettle in the United States to save 75,000 lives and ensure the healthy future of our crucial refugee resettlement program.

For an advocacy toolkit with a great deal more information about advocating about these issues, click here. To join our mailing list to ensure that you continue to receive updates about the status of the program, click here. To support our work in trying to save the program and serve the refugees that are already in this country, volunteer here or donate here.