April 27, 2021

Durbin, Colleagues Urge President Biden to Issue Updated Presidential Determination With An Increased Refugee Admissions Target

In letter, Senators also urged President Biden to set a target of at least 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2022 and 62,500 for this fiscal year

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today led 33 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to issue an updated presidential determination with an increased refugee admissions target for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 as soon as possible.  The Senators also urged President Biden to set a target of at least 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2022 and to set the refugee admissions target at 62,500 for this fiscal year, as the Administration proposed to Congress in February.  The Senators’ letter comes after the Administration announced it intended to establish a final increased refugee admissions target for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15, 2021. 

“The United States must reject the previous Administration’s cruel legacy of anti-refugee policies and return to our longstanding bipartisan tradition of providing safety to the world’s most vulnerable refugees,” the Senators wrote.  “Under the previous Administration, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) suffered from four consecutive years of dramatic decreases in refugee resettlement, resulting in reduced capacity in our refugee resettlement infrastructure.  We acknowledge the challenges you inherited with USRAP, and we strongly support the rebuilding and strengthening of USRAP.”

The Senators continued, “We urge you to expeditiously and safely admit all qualified refugees who are waiting to be resettled.  We urge you to set a robust increased target for USRAP as soon as possible.”

Along with Durbin, today’s letter was signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).

Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States resettled an average of more than 80,000 refugees per year.  However, the Trump Administration set the annual refugee admissions target at disgracefully low numbers for four years in a row.  Last fiscal year, the Administration set a target of only 18,000 refugees and just 11,814 refugees were admitted.  

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were more than 80 million people displaced worldwide in 2020, a record high.  Among this displaced population are 26 million refugees – the highest number in history – half of whom are children.  UNHCR estimates that 1.4 million refugees are in urgent need of resettlement.

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below:

April 27, 2021

Dear President Biden: 

We respectfully ask that you issue an updated presidential determination with an increased refugee admissions target for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 as soon as possible.  Furthermore, we urge you to set a target of at least 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2022. 

We welcome your Administration’s announcement that you intend to establish a final increased refugee admissions target for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15, 2021.  We urge you to set the refugee admissions target at 62,500 for this fiscal year, as your Administration proposed to Congress in February.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were more than 80 million people displaced worldwide in 2020, a record high.  Among this displaced population are 26 million refugees – the highest number in history – half of whom are children.  UNHCR estimates that 1.4 million refugees are in urgent need of resettlement.  Only a tiny percentage of refugees are permanently resettled each year.  

The United States must reject the previous Administration’s cruel legacy of anti-refugee policies and return to our longstanding bipartisan tradition of providing safety to the world’s most vulnerable refugees.  Prior to the previous Administration, the refugee admissions ceiling had averaged 95,000 per year and had never been set below 67,000.  The U.S. had resettled an average of over 80,000 refugees per year since 1980 until the Trump Administration.  The U.S. admitted more than 100,000 refugees during each year of President George H.W. Bush’s presidency.  Even after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush set the refugee admissions target at 70,000, and the U.S. admitted more than 27,000 refugees in FY 2002. 

Under the previous Administration, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) suffered from four consecutive years of dramatic decreases in refugee resettlement, resulting in reduced capacity in our refugee resettlement infrastructure.  We acknowledge the challenges you inherited with USRAP, and we strongly support the rebuilding and strengthening of USRAP.

We were pleased to see your commitment to rebuilding USRAP as part of your Administration’s FY 2022 budget proposal.  Rebuilding our refugee infrastructure is critical for providing safety for people fleeing war and persecution, including for vulnerable Central Americans seeking safety.  Restoring USRAP will strengthen our ability to protect the most vulnerable refugees from conflicts all over the world, including in our geographic region.  

Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted travelers to our country and can wait for years before they are resettled here.  As of March 31, 2021, only 2,050 refugees had been resettled in the United States this fiscal year.  More than 35,000 refugees have reportedly been screened and preliminarily approved by the Department of Homeland Security for resettlement in the U.S.  We urge you to expeditiously and safely admit all qualified refugees who are waiting to be resettled.  We urge you to set a robust increased target for USRAP as soon as possible. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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