New Historic-Low Presidential Determination on Refugees is Signed

October 28, 2020

The signing comes after weeks of delay, further lowers the annual resettlement goal to 15,000, and drives the life-saving U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program to its weakest point.

New York City–Last night President Trump signed a new discriminatory and cruel Fiscal Year 2021 refugee admissions goal that will cap admissions at 15,000 and harmfully restrict arrivals based on limited categories of persecution and country of origin—meaning even fewer than 15,000 refugees will actually be resettled. The signing comes four weeks late, included an unlawful delay of required consultation with Congress, and reaches a new, historic low in the 40-year, bipartisan history of the resettlement program.

CWS President and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough issued the following statement:

Once again, the president hit rock bottom and decided to keep digging. By further lowering the refugee admissions goal to a new historic low, he is slamming America’s door on the most at-risk. For those limited few that can now arrive, we are thankful, but for the many that will remain separated from their families, in harm’s way, this is a travesty. As people of faith we must now resolve ourselves to make Congress act, otherwise the lives of thousands of refugees, and that of the resettlement program itself, could be irreparably harmed. 

This failure is not only a moral one, but a legal one: Although the administration was required by law to meet with Congress by September 30th, it willfully chose not to do so. Instead it waited four weeks, leaving the world’s most vulnerable in harm’s way while the White House played politics and thumbed its nose at our proud tradition of welcome. While for many this may be just a political issue, lowering the resettlement goal to a historic low puts real lives at stake.

On September 30, 2020, the Trump administration issued a report to Congress indicating its intent to set a new historic-low refugee admissions goal of 15,000 for FY2021. The report came after the White House’s willful decision to violate U.S. law by not consulting with Congress by the September 30th deadline. On October 20th, the administration ultimately did meet with Congress, reaffirming their intent to set the resettlement ceiling at 15,000 for this fiscal year. 

Since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, the United States has set an average admissions goal of 95,000 refugees annually. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, refugee admissions have been severely cut by more than 80%, causing irreparable damage to refugee families. CWS calls on Congress to hold the administration accountable to restore the resettlement program to historic norms and actually meet FY 2021’s admissions goal—and pass the Refugee Protection Act (S.2936 / H.R.5210), which would rebuild and strengthen the resettlement program and asylum protections.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. 

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