American Values,Presidential Determination,Refugees,White House / July 2019

Letter to the White House on the Presidential Determination of Refugee Admissions to the U.S. for FY 2020


July 23, 2019

President Donald J. Trump
The Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State

cc: Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader
Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader

Re: Presidential Determination FY 2020

Dear Mr. President,

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and 47 of our Network partners across the country write with urgency concerning the upcoming Presidential Determination.  We call upon the Administration to return the resettlement program to historic norms—95,000 refugees per year—and ask that this number serve as the resettlement goal for FY2020.

Since 1911 USCRI has been dedicated to protecting the rights and addressing the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and supporting their transition to a dignified life.  USCRI, through our network, has welcomed over 350,000 refugees and immigrants for decades.  Those fleeing tyranny from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Iran, Cuba and Haiti have had the opportunity for a fresh start and safety in America.

Refugee resettlement is a strong bipartisan tradition that reflects American values. Presidents from both parties have ensured that America leads in times of crisis. Presidents have used refugee admissions to support those who seek liberty and reject ideologies antithetical to American values. Republicans and Democrats have raised refugee admissions for populations fleeing communist uprisings, religious persecution and tyranny in countries like Vietnam, Cuba, the former Soviet Union, Kosovo, Myanmar, and Iran.

The facts on refugee resettlement present a compelling case for raising the ceiling for refugee admissions. Research, including reports from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), show the enormous net contribution refugees make to the U.S. economy. The numbers make a convincing case documenting the net fiscal impact of refugees over a ten-year period at $63 billion. According to the study, from 2005-2014, refugees paid an estimated $269.1 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Over that ten-year period, per capita refugee costs for each refugee receiving benefits from HHS averaged $3,300.

The case for raising the refugee ceiling is based on national security, foreign policy and a humanitarian imperative. The U.S. Department of State, as well as the Department of Defense, and relevant federal agencies have recognized that the U.S. must share the responsibility for admitting refugees with our friends and allies abroad as a national security priority. As a nation built by immigrants, we cannot cede our historic role as a global leader. Americans have jealously guarded our global leadership, believing that the United States is best positioned to promote the values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights worldwide.

Raising the ceiling is a powerful foreign policy tool. It allows us to support host countries, which are often important U.S. allies, and helps maintain stability in those countries and regions.  Furthermore, we cannot turn our backs on the implied promises we have already made. There are refugees already approved or already interviewed and at other various stages in the resettlement process. To reject them, after they have already waited for years to be resettled, would be a betrayal in violation of our values and humanitarian obligations. The countries hosting them are expecting our support through resettlement.  Additionally, we cannot abandon our commitment to Afghans and Iraqis who put their lives on the line to serve alongside U.S. troops, as well as religious minorities and other refugees with no other option for safety. Finally, we cannot predict the need in unstable situations, including Venezuela, and need the flexibility to respond with resettlement options when necessary.

USCRI calls upon the Administration to set a robust resettlement goal in the best interests of the American people. Our economy is strengthened by the presence of refugee communities. Our national security is heightened by honoring our international obligations. Our foreign policy options are broadened with resettlement as a tool. The ceiling for refugee admissions should be raised.



Eskinder Negash

President and CEO
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants


Additional signatories:

Agency for New Americans, a program of Jannus

Arizona Immigrant & Refugee Services (AIRS)

Asylee Women


Bethany Christian Services

Catherine McAuley Center

Catholic Charities Maine

Catholic Charities of Oregon

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Syracuse

Catholic Charities Oregon

Catholic Family Center Rochester

College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Inc.

Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc.

Freedom House Detroit

Heartland Human Care Services

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)

Immigration Counseling Service of Oregon

Immigration Institute of the Bay Area

Interfaith – R.I.S.E.

International American Relief Society IARS

International Center of Kentucky

International Institute of Akron

International Institute of Buffalo

International Institute of Los Angeles

International Institute of Minnesota

International Institute of New England

International Institute of St Louis

International Institute of Wisconsin

Jewish Vocational Service of Kansas City

La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc.

Lao Family Community Development, Inc.

Mary’s Center

Nationalities Service Center

Northern Nevada International Center

Project Against Violent Encounters

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Refugee Services of Texas

Sexual Assault Crisis Team of Washington County, VT

The America Team for Displaced Eritreans

The College of Southern Idaho Refugee Programs

The Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation

The Tiyya Foundation

Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

With Open Minds

Youth Co-Op, Inc.

YWCA Wheeling






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