Trump Administration Signs Lowest Refugee Admissions in American History

Published On: Donate

Trump Administration Signs Lowest Refugee Admissions Ceiling in American History

For Immediate Release: October 28, 2020

Contact: Timothy Young | tyoung@lirs.org | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – The Trump administration signed its annual Presidential Determination on refugee admissions just after midnight on Wednesday, October 28, committing to resettle just 15,000 individuals in Fiscal Year 2021, which would be the lowest admissions ceiling since the inception of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

The announcement comes on the heels of what was previously the lowest level of refugee admissions in American history. For FY 2020, which ended on September 30, the administration had set a goal to welcome just 18,000 refugees, in stark contrast to the average admissions ceiling of approximately 95,000 since the beginning of the USRAP. Despite this historically low target, the administration barely attained 65% of allotted admissions – resettling only 11,814 refugees this fiscal year, according to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

“In just four years, this Administration has cut the refugee resettlement program from 110,000 to a historic low of 15,000. At a time of unprecedented global need, today’s decision is a complete abdication of our humanitarian duty, and does a great disservice to our national interests” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency that has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees since 1939. “Any claim that this administration supports legal immigration is undermined by these unprecedented cuts to a program that has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support for decades. Refugees go through extreme vetting and have done everything our government has asked of them, yet they continue to be met with open hostility and egregious processing delays from this administration.”

The record-low admissions figures have also disproportionately impacted certain groups. Admissions of Muslim refugees have declined to approximately 2,500, down from approximately 38,900 in FY 2016. Additionally, the Trump administration set aside 4,000 slots for Iraqi allies who assisted U.S. interests in their home country. However, it fell drastically short, resettling only 161 individuals in this category, or just 4% of the admissions goal.

“It shows the tragic extent to which we have abandoned our Iraqi allies who risked their lives, and those of their family, to assist U.S. government and military personnel,” noted Vignarajah. “This further undermines our diplomatic and military efforts, rendering it nearly impossible to garner support from regional allies moving forward.”

Given FY2020’s record-low admissions numbers and an FY2021 proposed admissions ceiling of only 15,000, refugee advocates are deeply concerned by the human toll on the most vulnerable.

“This heartless decision is diametrically opposed to our values as a welcoming nation and it dishonors our common humanity at a time of dire need,” concluded Vignarajah. “In real terms, this means that families who have already waited years are forced to postpone reunification. It means that thousands who would otherwise find safety on our shores are left to languish in refugee camps, with no end in sight.”

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America. 

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