• Press Release

The United States is Failing Refugees Under President Trump

October 1, 2020

Women and girls in New York protest and hold up their fists
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
In response to the release of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s  Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021, which outlines the Administration’s intention to resettle no more than 15,000 refugees – the lowest refugee goal in U.S. history – in the new fiscal year which began today, Ryan Mace, a senior policy advisor at Amnesty International USA said:

“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.

“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.”

Amnesty International USA is calling on the President 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 here in the U.S., Amnesty International USA is also calling 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 is calling 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.

Background and context

The Refugee Act of 1980 created the United States’ modern refugee program, which has resulted in over 3 million people resettled to a new home in the U.S. Since President Trump took office, the refugee admissions numbers have been at their lowest in decades: prior to 2018, the yearly refugee admissions goal since 1980 averaged 95,000 persons to be accepted per year.

In the lead up to the President’s report to Congress, over 540 state and local officials from all 50 states pledged their strong support of resettling refugees, the fourth year in a row local officials have sent such a letter to the President, to no avail.

There are 80 million people forcibly displaced around the world, with 1.4 people in need of resettlement this coming year according to the UN Refugee Agency, yet the United States is resettling fewer refugees than ever before. Amnesty International USA renews its call for the United States to admit at least 95,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2021.

Through the Longer Table Initiative, Amnesty International USA and its supporters all across the country have been working to welcome refugees through community sponsorship. Actions by the Longer Table Initiative have included writing letters, signing up communities to sponsor a refugee or a refugee family to live locally, incorporating refugee stories into a book club, and more. Amnesty International USA members have passed over one hundred “I Welcome” Refugees resolutions declaring support for refugees in cities and local communities.

In 2019, Amnesty International USA released a report, The Mountain is in Front of Us and the Sea is Behind Us’: The Impact of US Policies on Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, documenting how refugee families continue to be locked in an impossible limbo, stuck abroad and denied opportunities for resettlement, because of discriminatory U.S. policies as they try to seek safety with a new life and a permanent home.