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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Statement on Historically Low Refugee Admittance
October 01, 2020

Human Rights First Statement on Historically Low Refugee Admittance

Delivering report at the 11th hour, Trump sets the lowest number ever for refugee resettlement

WASHINGTON — Late last night the Trump administration announced in a report to Congress that the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for FY 2021 will cap the refugees admitted to the United States at 15,000, the lowest number ever set by any administration since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. This report, sent to legislators on the last day of the previous fiscal year, sets up further delays for the arrivals of refugees as the administration legally consults on the number, weeks after it should have been made official.

Human Rights First, which works to support and protect the rights of refugees, was unsurprised by the announcement coming from an administration that has long ignored its international legal obligations to human rights.

“What we have learned from our work in the last three years to defend the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, is that this administration can always go lower,” said Eleanor Acer, director of refugee protection at Human Rights First. “With this pathetically low number the administration is, once again, slamming the door on refugees in need of resettlement, just as it has slammed the door to refugees seeking asylum. Abandoning persecuted people in need of our protection reflects a total lack of moral and humanitarian leadership. The administration’s attempt to downplay its embarrassingly low resettlement goal by referencing U.S. asylum is brazenly disingenuous given its flood of policies aimed at preventing refugees from receiving asylum in the United States and turning them away to some of the most dangerous places in the world.”    

Since the beginning of President Trump’s term, he has sought to dismantle and destroy the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum systems, betraying the U.S.’s legacy as a global humanitarian leader. After setting the lowest cap ever of 18,000 for FY20, even that many refugees have failed to enter the United States after the administration suspended resettlement in the pandemic.

Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, and until three years ago, the annual number of refugees to be resettled in the United States averaged 95,000 refugees a year. With today’s announcement the administration has taken yet another step to decimate the U.S. resettlement program, and the ability of the United Nations and the world to address the plight of families and individual refugees determined to be in need of resettlement. 

“Resettlement not only protects refugees in need of safe haven, but it also advances U.S. national interests by supporting U.S. allies and other frontline countries that host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees,” Acer added. “This new low will once again undermine U.S. national interests and leave many refugees, including those who put their lives on the line to help U.S. forces in Iraq, stranded in difficult and dangerous situations abroad.”