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Letter to the Hon. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of State, and the Hon. Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security - Leahy Leads Judiciary Committee Democrats In Forcefully Condemning Proposal To Zero Out Refugee Admissions


Dear Secretary Pompeo and Acting Secretary McAleenan,

We write to forcefully condemn any plans to further reduce the United States' annual refugee admissions -- which, under President Trump, are already at the lowest levels since our refugee resettlement program was created in 1980. Reports that Trump administration officials in your agencies recently discussed slashing our FY 2020 admissions even further -- from 30,000 to zero, potentially -- are profoundly alarming.[1] If true, they would confirm that the Trump administration is outright abandoning our role as the humanitarian leader of the world -- even in the face of the worst displacement crisis in human history.[2] Such a decision would do grave damage to our nation's values, our security interests, and our global standing.

The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) was created by Congress with strong bipartisan support through the 1980 Refugee Act, and has enjoyed strong bipartisan backing throughout its existence. Since the program's inception, both Republican and Democratic administrations, on average, have set an annual goal of resettling 95,000 refugees and have admitted 80,000 refugees per year.[3] Since USRAP's creation, the United States has safely resettled over three million refugees[4] -- the most stringently screened travelers to our country, by far[5] -- who have contributed to our communities and enriched our society.[6] Indeed, in recent years, refugees have been instrumental to the economic renaissance of cities across America.[7]

In addition to fulfilling our moral and legal obligations, the USRAP has been an essential tool of U.S. foreign policy, helping promote and protect our interests abroad. By resettling refugees, the United States has successfully encouraged other countries to keep their doors open to those fleeing persecution.[8] By welcoming our fair share of refugees, the United States has helped relieve the burdens imposed upon critical allies facing the brunt of the refugee crisis in the Middle East.[9] By providing safe haven to thousands of refugees who have served alongside U.S. troops abroad, we have ensured that our military receives the continued cooperation and assistance it needs in dangerous combat zones.[10]

National security officials across the political spectrum believe that resettling refugees protects our national interests.[11] Thus, it is not surprising that it is the Department of Defense that is reportedly resisting this misguided attempt to zero out refugee admissions in Fiscal Year 2020.[12]

We urge you to immediately abandon any plans to further reduce -- or worse, zero out -- our annual refugee admissions numbers. And we call on you to restore our FY 2020 refugee admissions numbers to at least 95,000 -- in line with average annual admissions ceilings under all administrations over the past four decades. While President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for our identity as a nation of refugees and immigrants, we hope that the voices of those who care about our long-standing values and long-term interests will ultimately prevail.