Statement on Refugee Admissions Cap for 2021

The Trump administration officially set the refugee admissions ceiling for FY2021 to 15,000, after delayed consultations with Congress finally took place. Once again, the president set a new record, with the lowest refugee ceiling in the history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. 

In response, HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield said: “This latest move was anticipated, but it is shocking nonetheless. At this point our government is completely failing to do the decent thing and help people find safety. There is a huge cost of inaction, both in terms of the lives and futures of refugees, and the loss to our country of people who have energized and contributed to our communities throughout our history and would continue to do so today. We had a global system that ensured that the world would never again turn its back on people fleeing persecution, but that system is eroding fast.”

The FY 2021 cap explicitly states that the 6,000 spots unused from last year’s admissions ceiling were incorporated into the 15,000 number, a move that no administration has ever done before. The administration also lists three “high risk” categories of persons who are prohibited from being considered refugees in the U.S. unless they meet very stringent criteria.

“The restrictions placed on refugees from Somalia, Yemen, and Syria is a revived attempt at a Muslim ban, barring people based entirely on national origin,” Hetfield said. “It’s a ban based on ethnic and religious prejudice, not national security.”

Hetfield continued: “The administration may have turned its back on refugees, but we at HIAS won’t. HIAS, the American Jewish community, and our local resettlement partners across the country have welcomed immigrants and refugees for well over a century. HIAS and our community of supporters and partners remain more committed than ever to welcoming the stranger.”

Historically, the annual refugee admissions ceiling has averaged 95,000 per year but last year the administration set the goal, officially known as the Presidential Determination, or PD, at 18,000, the lowest since the U.S. refugee resettlement program was created. This year, according to the U.N Refugee Agency, there are 26 million refugees worldwide, with more than  1.4 million individuals in need of immediate resettlement.


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