December 7, 2022

Amnesty International USA outraged over Trump’s decision to cut refugee cap to lowest level ever

President Trump during a news conference at the White House on Sunday.Credit...Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
President Trump during a news conference at the White House on Sunday.Credit...Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Amnesty International USA has expressed outrage over the announcement by the Donald Trump administration late on Wednesday that it will admit only 15,000 refugees in the 2021 fiscal year which starts today, October 1.

That number is down from the 18,000 cap this year, and dramatically down from 100,000 under the Obama administration.

“The number of refugees that the United States welcomes each year is a measure of who we are and where we stand in the world in terms of our commitment to human rights. Under the Trump administration the U.S. is gravely failing. Year after year, this Administration has not only lowered the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to historic lows, but it has aimed a constant barrage of attacks towards this life-altering program,” Ryan Mace, a senior policy advisor at Amnesty International USA said in a statement.

“The vast majority of people in this country support welcoming refugees as their new neighbors. But the actions of President Trump demonstrate again and again that they do not listen to the people who eagerly want to do more – instead, they want to keep the door shut to anyone seeking safety who could make this country their new home. In a particularly disingenuous move, the Trump administration conflates refugee admissions with the number of asylum applications it anticipates, while failing to mention it has thoroughly gutted the right to seek asylum. We must do better,” Mace added.

Amnesty International USA called on President Trump to set a higher refugee admissions goal, aligned with both the historic need and historic norms, for the new fiscal year, which begins today.

In addition to expanding resettlement opportunities in the U.S., Amnesty International USA also called on the administration to invest in other admission pathways, including humanitarian programs, family reunification, and co-sponsorship programs.

For the refugees who remain displaced, Amnesty International USA called on the administration to increase support for humanitarian programs that enhance educational opportunities, provide job and livelihood programs, and focus on women’s and children’s unique needs, as well as other independence measures.

The State Department made the announcement on the new refugee cap in a statement on Wednesday night, shortly before the October 1 start of the 2021 fiscal year.

The announcement was made just an hour before the deadline following criticisms from lawmakers.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly riled against immigrants, has already suspended admissions entirely for several months this year, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the State Department said it expects  more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year 2021, but will only admit 15,000.

“The United States anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year 2021.  Of that number, up to 15,000 would be refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and more than 290,000 would be individuals in new asylum cases,” the department said.

Read full statement below by the State Department to Congress:

Transmission of the President’s Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021

Today, the Department of State, together with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services, submitted the President’s Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021.  Following consultation with Congress, the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions will be issued by the White House.

The United States anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year 2021.  Of that number, up to 15,000 would be refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and more than 290,000 would be individuals in new asylum cases.

The United States is committed to achieving the best humanitarian outcomes while advancing our foreign policy interests.  Given the dire situation of nearly 80 million displaced people around the world, the mission of American diplomacy is more important than ever.

By focusing on ending the conflicts that drive displacement in the first place, and by providing overseas humanitarian assistance to protect and assist displaced people, we can prevent the destabilizing effects of such displacement on affected countries and their neighbors.  Therefore, we pursue diplomatic solutions to crises around the world, such as our support for the legitimate government of Venezuela in the face of the illegitimate Maduro regime’s tyranny.

In line with the U.S. National Security Strategy, we are working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their homes as possible until they can safely and voluntarily return to rebuild their lives, their communities, and their countries.  As part of our longstanding leadership in international humanitarian crisis response, the United States provided more than $9 billion in humanitarian assistance in Fiscal Year 2019 and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance over the past decade. 

The President’s proposal for refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2021 reflects the Administration’s continuing commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  It accounts for the massive backlog in asylum cases – now more than 1.1 million individuals – by prioritizing those who are already in the country seeking humanitarian protection.  It also accounts for the arrival of refugees whose resettlement in the United States was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Refugee resettlement is only one aspect of U.S. humanitarian-based immigration efforts.  Since 1980, America has welcomed almost 3.8 million refugees and asylees, and our country hosts hundreds of thousands more people under other humanitarian immigration categories.  This year’s proposed refugee resettlement program continues that legacy with specific allocations for people who have suffered or fear persecution on the basis of religion; for Iraqis whose assistance to the United States has put them in danger; for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; and for refugees from Hong Kong, Cuba, and Venezuela.

The President’s proposal for refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2021 reaffirms America’s enduring commitment to assist the world’s most vulnerable people while fulfilling our first duty to protect and serve the American people.

U.S. Department of State

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