Statement of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) on
the Presidential Determination of Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020
September 27, 2019
Today, more than any other time in modern history, American leadership is needed to respond to the global refugee crisis—the highest levels of displacement on record.
Yet, with 30 million refugees worldwide and another 40 million people displaced, the Administration has decided to drastically cut our refugee admissions ceiling to 18,000.
America’s refugee resettlement program has had bipartisan support in Congress for decades. Following the unanimous vote in the Senate for the Refugee Act of 1980, Republican and Democratic administrations have admitted an average of 95,000 refugees into the United States annually. These refugees were fleeing persecution from some of the world’s most dangerous places, including the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Iran, Haiti, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The objectives of this law are clearly stated: “to provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission to this country of refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States, and to provide comprehensive and uniform provisions for the effective resettlement and absorption of those refugees who are admitted.”
Furthermore, the Congress declared that “it is the policy of the United States to encourage all nations to provide assistance and resettlement opportunities to refugees to the fullest extent possible.”
American exceptionalism was born out of a deep and abiding faith in our strength, our unity and our commitment to serve as a global leader. As first among equals on the global stage, the humanitarian imperative obligates us to provide humanitarian assistance where it is needed and inspire our partner nations around the world to do the same.
For those who believe that refugees are a drain on our economy, the numbers tell a different story. Refugees make an enormous net contribution to the U.S. economy with a fiscal impact over a ten-year period of $63 billion. Refugees paid $269 billion in taxes over that same period. In cities across the United States, communities have been re-shaped by refugees—filling vacant jobs, buying homes, opening small businesses, joining the military and becoming U.S. citizens.
How will history judge the United States for closing its doors to people fleeing violence and persecution?
A majority of refugees who flee violence and persecution end up in low- and middle-income countries that border the country of origin. Although the United States resettles less than five percent of these refugees (we rank 75th worldwide for taking in refugees), it provides some relief to the host country and, moreover, encourages other countries to undertake resettlement efforts. These are concrete actions that contribute to greater regional stability, thereby reducing threats to our national security.
For we as Americans, this policy decision serves to undermine the foundational principles and values that have defined us as a people for hundreds of years. Our national identity will be in question as we grapple with who we have become as a nation.
Historically, our greatness has been rooted in our diversity. And although our history includes the tragedy of slavery, it simultaneously reflects the core American value of granting asylum to those who seek liberty. Thomas Jefferson wrote … the natural right which all men have of relinquishing the country in which birth or other accident may have thrown them, and seeking subsistence and happiness wheresoever they may be able, or may hope to find them.
USCRI strongly believes that reducing our refugee admission level to 18,000 will have irreparable consequences that do not serve our national interests and further compromise our standing as a global leader.
USCRI has been addressing the needs and advocating on behalf of refugees and immigrants for over 100 years.