USCRI Statement on the President’s Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admission for FY2021

By USCRI October 1, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA – The President’s Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Ceiling for FY 2021 calling for a maximum of 15,000 refugees to enter the U.S. is a serious and consequential action that significantly weakens the longstanding global humanitarian leadership role of the United States.

The report, required to be submitted to Congress preceding the Presidential Determination, calls for a refugee ceiling of 15,000—drastically reduced from the decades long average admissions ceiling of 96,000.

Eskinder Negash, President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, said. “The proposed refugee ceiling weakens our longstanding global humanitarian leadership role. This is happening at a time when global displacement is at an all-time high of nearly 80 million people. Restoring the refugee ceiling to the decades long average of 96,000 sends a clear and powerful message to the global community on our commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The Administration positions the COVID-19 pandemic as a barrier to refugee resettlement. The COVID-19 pandemic should be a factor in determining our refugee admissions ceiling. However, the pandemic should be a reason to increase the refugee admissions ceiling, not decrease it. COVID-19 has a catastrophic impact on the health of refugees, creates stress on host countries, and is a serious impediment to global public health.

The devastatingly overcrowded living conditions of refugees in camps and in urban areas, lack of access to clean water, poor nutrition and severely limited healthcare make refugees particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. This pandemic knows no borders. It is a humanitarian imperative to take on the responsibility of alleviating its impact on host countries that have fewer resources yet support much larger refugee populations.

Refugees approved for resettlement have already undergone a rigorous screening and vetting process while they are still living overseas. Refugees wait for approval anywhere from eighteen months to sometimes ten years before they are approved for resettlement. With this approval, they are ready for admission to the U.S.

Once approved, refugees undergo a thorough medical screening examination before their departure. Upon arrival in the U.S, each refugee and refugee family are assigned to one of nine refugee resettlement agencies that provide case management services to integrate refugees into their new communities. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, resettlement agencies, including USCRI, have developed cutting-edge tools and approaches to ensure that each refugee has the information required along with access to healthcare to keep them healthy. We have adapted CDC Guidelines to the different languages and cultures of our clients and continue to work with community leaders to promote basic prevention, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hygiene practices.

The U.S., based on the enduring values and principles of our Founders, historically has played a leading role globally in welcoming the persecuted and oppressed from around the world. “We are a nation of immigrants” is not just a tagline. We have led the global community by setting a humanitarian example to countries everywhere.

We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider its decision to further decrease the refugee admissions ceiling and increase it to the historic norm of 96,000. By doing so, we will strengthen our international leadership and restore our position as first among equals in the global community.

For immediate release on October 1, 2020

Media Contact: Annette Sheckler ([email protected])

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