Contact: Louisa Tavlas

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WASHINGTON, D.C. August 5, 2019 —In light of recent reports that the Trump administration is considering a fiscal year 2020 refugee ceiling of zero, the Niskanen Center applauds a bipartisan group of senators for expressing concern and urging action. 

Today, Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) spearheaded a letter signed by 18 senators from across the country. The letter, which is addressed to Secretaries Pompeo, Azar, and McAleenan, conveys dismay about the dangerous consequences of zero refugee admissions:

We urge you to increase the refugee resettlement cap and to admit as many refugees as possible within that cap… America has a responsibility to promote compassion and democracy around the world through assistance to vulnerable and displaced people. 

Since the inception of the refugee program, the U.S. has safely welcomed more than 3 million refugees to communities in all 50 states, resulting in positive economic and social impacts. Maintaining a robust refugee program is also a critical national security and foreign policy imperative.

“Resettling zero refugee next year would devastate the domestic and international refugee resettlement apparatus the U.S. has built over decades, and would jeopardize our own national security and ability to work with foreign governments,”said Kristie De Peña, Niskanen’s director of immigration & senior counsel. She continues, “zero admissions would not only be a catastrophic policy failure; it may potentially violate the law if implemented without proper consultation with Congress.”

The Niskanen Center appreciates the leadership of these 18 senators and looks forward to working to maintain a robust refugee resettlement program. 


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.