07.23.19

Leahy Leads Judiciary Committee Democrats In Forcefully Condemning Proposal To Zero Out Refugee Admissions

. . . Senators Urge FY 2020 Refugee Admissions To Be Raised To Historic Averages

(TUESDAY, July 23, 2019) — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday led all Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee – the Senate committee of jurisdiction over all refugee and immigration laws – in forcefully condemning a proposal reportedly being considered by Trump administration officials to dramatically reduce – or worse, eliminate – annual refugee admissions, which have already plummeted to historic lows under President Trump. The Judiciary Committee Democrats reiterated the longstanding bipartisan support for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, its importance to our national security interests, and, most critically, its centrality to America’s identity and history as a nation of refugees and immigrants.

The Senators wrote:  “We write to forcefully condemn any plans to further reduce the United States’ annual refugee admissions – which, under President Trump, are already at the lowest levels since our refugee resettlement program was created in 1980. Reports that Trump administration officials in your agencies recently discussed slashing our FY 2020 admissions even further – from 30,000 to zero, potentially – are profoundly alarming. If true, they would confirm that the Trump administration is outright abandoning our role as the humanitarian leader of the world – even in the face of the worst displacement crisis in human history. Such a decision would do grave damage to our nation’s values, our security interests, and our global standing.”

The Senators demanded:  “We urge you to immediately abandon any plans to further reduce – or worse, zero out – our annual refugee admissions numbers. And we call on you to restore our FY 2020 refugee admissions numbers to at least 95,000 – in line with average annual admissions ceilings under all administrations over the past four decades. While President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for our identity as a nation of refugees and immigrants, we hope that the voices of those who care about our long-standing values and long-term interests will ultimately prevail.” 

Full text of the letter is below:

July 23, 2019

The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20520

The Honorable Kevin K. McAleenan

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20528

 Dear Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary McAleenan,

We write to forcefully condemn any plans to further reduce the United States’ annual refugee admissions – which, under President Trump, are already at the lowest levels since our refugee resettlement program was created in 1980. Reports that Trump administration officials in your agencies recently discussed slashing our FY 2020 admissions even further – from 30,000 to zero, potentially – are profoundly alarming.[1] If true, they would confirm that the Trump administration is outright abandoning our role as the humanitarian leader of the world – even in the face of the worst displacement crisis in human history.[2] Such a decision would do grave damage to our nation’s values, our security interests, and our global standing. 

The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) was created by Congress with strong bipartisan support through the 1980 Refugee Act, and has enjoyed strong bipartisan backing throughout its existence. Since the program’s inception, both Republican and Democratic administrations, on average, have set an annual goal of resettling 95,000 refugees and have admitted 80,000 refugees per year.[3] Since USRAP’s creation, the United States has safely resettled over three million refugees[4] – the most stringently screened travelers to our country, by far[5] – who have contributed to our communities and enriched our society.[6] Indeed, in recent years, refugees have been instrumental to the economic renaissance of cities across America.[7] 

In addition to fulfilling our moral and legal obligations, the USRAP has been an essential tool of U.S. foreign policy, helping promote and protect our interests abroad. By resettling refugees, the United States has successfully encouraged other countries to keep their doors open to those fleeing persecution.[8] By welcoming our fair share of refugees, the United States has helped relieve the burdens imposed upon critical allies facing the brunt of the refugee crisis in the Middle East.[9] By providing safe haven to thousands of refugees who have served alongside U.S. troops abroad, we have ensured that our military receives the continued cooperation and assistance it needs in dangerous combat zones.[10]

National security officials across the political spectrum believe that resettling refugees protects our national interests.[11] Thus, it is not surprising that it is the Department of Defense that is reportedly resisting this misguided attempt to zero out refugee admissions in Fiscal Year 2020.[12]

We urge you to immediately abandon any plans to further reduce – or worse, zero out – our annual refugee admissions numbers. And we call on you to restore our FY 2020 refugee admissions numbers to at least 95,000 – in line with average annual admissions ceilings under all administrations over the past four decades. While President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for our identity as a nation of refugees and immigrants, we hope that the voices of those who care about our long-standing values and long-term interests will ultimately prevail.  

 

Sincerely,

Patrick Leahy                                                                          Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin                                                                    Sheldon Whitehouse  

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator

                                                                                                

Amy Klobuchar                                                                      Christopher A. Coons

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal                                                                Mazie K. Hirono

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator

Cory A. Booker                                                                      Kamala D. Harris

United States Senator                                                             United States Senator



[1] See Ted Hesson, Trump officials pressing to slash refugee admissions to zero next year, Politico (July 18, 2019) (online at https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/18/trump-officials-refugee-zero-1603503).

[2] See UNHCR, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018, at 4 (June 20, 2019) (online at https://www.unhcr.org/5d08d7ee7.pdf). 

[3] See U.S. Refugee Resettlement Ceilings and Number of Refugees Admitted, 1980–Present, Migration Policy Institute (2019) (online at https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/us-annual-refugee-resettlement-ceilings-and-number-refugees-admitted-united).

[4] U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2019, at 4 (online at https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Proposed-Refugee-Admissions-for-Fiscal-Year-2019.pdf).

[5] Refugee Resettlement – Security Screening Information, Human Rights First (Feb. 1, 2017) (online at https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/refugee-resettlement-security-screening-information).

[6] See generally National Bureau of Economic Research, The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United State: Evidence from the ACS (June 2017) (online at https://www.nber.org/papers/w23498.pdf); New American Economy, From Struggle to Resilience: The Economic Impact of Refugees in America (June 2017) (online at http://research.newamericaneconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/11/NAE_Refugees_V6.pdf); Department of Health and Human Services, Draft Report: The Fiscal Costs of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program at the Federal, State, and Local Levels, from 2005-2014 (July 2017) (online at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/19/us/politics/document-Refugee-Report.html); Migration Policy Institute, The Integration Outcomes of U.S. Refugees: Successes and Challenges (June 2015) (online https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/integration-outcomes-us-refugees-successes-and-challenges).

[7] See, e.g., Susan Hartman, A New Life for Refugees, and the City They Adopted, N.Y. Times (Aug. 10, 2014) (online at https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/11/nyregion/a-new-life-for-refugees-and-the-city-they-adopted.html).

[8] See Jynnah Radford & Phillip Connor, Canada now leads the world in refugee resettlement, surpassing the U.S., Pew Research Center (June 19, 2019) (online at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/19/canada-now-leads-the-world-in-refugee-resettlement-surpassing-the-u-s/).

[9] See Secretary Michael Chertoff, Cutting refugee admissions hurts Americans. Here’s how., Washington Post (September 14, 2017) (online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cutting-refugee-admissions-hurts-americans-heres-how/2017/09/14/c7c8b5e6-9987-11e7-b569-3360011663b4_story.html?utm_term=.5f61eabfab48).

[10] See Quil Lawrence, Trump Administration Has Drastically Dropped Visas For Afghan And Iraqi Interpreters, NPR (May 1, 2019) (online at https://www.npr.org/2019/05/01/718927688/no-visas-for-afghan-and-iraqi-interpreters).

[11] See, e.g., Human Rights First, Refugees and U.S. National Security (January 20, 2017) (online at https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/Refugees-National-Security-Fact-Sheet.pdf).

[12] See Ted Hesson, Trump officials pressing to slash refugee admissions to zero next year, Politico (July 18, 2019) (online at https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/18/trump-officials-refugee-zero-1603503).

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