Trump Administration Violates Moral and Legal Obligations, Delays Setting Refugee Admissions Goal Halting Historic Resettlement Program

October 1, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 1, 2020       


Trump Administration Violates Moral and Legal Obligations, Delays Setting Refugee Admissions Goal, Halting Historic Resettlement Program

White House recommends resettlement ceiling of 15,000, fails to consult with Congress and set official Presidential Determination by Fiscal Year deadline

New York City–Church World Service today expressed outrage over the Trump Administration’s report to Congress indicating its intent to set a new historic-low refugee resettlement ceiling of 15,000 for FY2021 and its willful decision to violate U.S. law by not consulting with Congress by the September 30th deadline. The organization urges Congress to require the administration to urgently hold consultations in good faith, substantially increase the proposed refugee admissions goal to be in line with historic norms and sign an official Presidential Determination as soon as possible. Every day it remains unsigned means more of the world’s most vulnerable will remain in harm’s way and separated from their families—all as the world faces an historic high number of displaced people. Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service issued the following statement:

“The Trump Administration’s failure to comply with the Refugee Act and their subsequent delays and cuts to the refugee program are moral failures and a disgrace to the American legacy of welcome. Refugee resettlement is not a partisan issue. Each day that resettlement is paused is a matter of life and death for the thousands of refugees waiting to rebuild their lives. Congress must not overlook this blatant disregard for human life and our legal process. They must demand that they be consulted as soon as possible and that the refugee program be restored.”

“The proposed refugee resettlement number of 15,000, a more than 80% cut over historic norms, is unacceptable. Our values as a nation and as people of faith demand that we take action when people’s lives are in danger. But for the past three years, President Trump and his administration have strayed so far from these basic principles in the name of their cruel, racist and partisan goals that the life-saving refugee resettlement program is a shadow of what it once was. I urge all Americans to insist that Congress hold the White House accountable to operating the refugee program as required by U.S. law.”

Last year, President Trump signed a discriminatory and cruel Fiscal Year 2020 refugee admissions goal at 18,000 – then an historic low – and limited arrivals based on preference categories, not geographic need or vulnerability. The signing of the presidential determination was significantly delayed, causing multiple moratoria on refugee arrivals that blocked all refugees from arriving in the United States for a month. The harmful impacts of grinding the resettlement program to a halt cannot be overstated. The multiple suspensions of the resettlement program during this administration has harmed countless families, many of whom remain separated to this day.

Since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, the United States has set a bipartisan-supported average admissions goal of 95,000 refugees annually. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, refugee admissions have been severely cut, causing irreparable damage to refugee families, American communities, and the infrastructure in place to welcome and support new arrivals. Across the country, hundreds of elected officials, congregations, and business leaders have been showing their support for refugee resettlement. It is critical for Congress to immediately hold the administration accountable to not only meaningfully consult with Congress, but also rebuild the resettlement program to historic norms by setting a FY 2021 admissions goal at 95,000 (the historic average).

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. Learn more about our refugee and immigrant work at