WASHINGTON, DC., September 24, 2020 — Seven former leaders of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program—who served Republican and Democratic presidential administrations—sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imploring him to increase refugee resettlement in the United States in Fiscal Year 2021. The current refugee admissions ceiling for 2020 already represents a dramatic and unprecedented reduction from the historical average.

The Refugee Act allows the president to authorize an annual refugee admissions ceiling each fiscal year, which begins on October 1. If the president does not announce a 2021 ceiling before October 1, all refugee arrivals will be interrupted.

Organized by the Niskanen Center and Refugees International, the letter also expresses alarm over a recent Reuters article claiming that the Trump administration is considering suspending all refugee admissions. According to the leaders:

Regardless of party, lawmakers and the American public have celebrated the program as a pillar of our nation’s values. Throughout our tenure in public service, we have seen firsthand the benefits of a robust refugee resettlement program internationally and domestically.  We believe that any further reduction in refugee resettlement would represent the disregard of the dire needs of displaced people around the world at a time when other governments are bearing substantial responsibilities to provide refuge. Moreover, a suspension would come in the context of enormous contributions of refugees already resettled in the United States, including refugees who are playing key roles as front-line workers in the current COVID-19 response. 

Kristie De Peña, Niskanen’s Vice President for Policy, said, “That distinguished public servants from both Republican and Democratic administrations came together to call for increased refugee admissions signals the urgent humanitarian and national security rationale for repairing resettlement.” She continues, “To ignore the decades of experience of the former leaders coalesced here would be disastrous.”

Signatories of the letter include Arthur Dewey, Frank Loy, Phyllis Oakley, James N. Purcell, Jr., Anne C. Richard, Eric Schwartz, and Samuel Witten. The cosigners represent more than 40 years of U.S. leadership under the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, and Carter administrations.

The full text of the letter is available here


The Niskanen Center is a 501(c)(3) advocacy organization established in 2014 that works to change public policy through direct engagement in the policymaking process.