• Press Release

The United States Must Revamp Refugee Admissions as Soon as Possible

May 3, 2021

Yellow and white graphic with the Amnesty international logo on the bottom left and the word
Responding to President Biden’s proposed presidential determination to admit up to 62,500 refugees this fiscal year, Joanne Lin, the National Director of Advocacy and Government Relations at Amnesty International USA, said:

“It’s absolutely vital for the United States to revamp refugee admissions as soon as possible so that the U.S. can rebuild the capacity and the systems to welcome more people in the years to come. Communities across the United States, from local groups to faith-based institutions, are ready to welcome their new neighbors and thousands of people around the world are waiting to rebuild their new lives in safety and join their loved ones in this country.

“In February, Secretary Blinken notified Congress that the Biden administration planned to admit up to 62,500 refugees this fiscal year. Two months later, that number was stunningly slashed to 15,000. Today’s proposal moves the Administration back in the right direction, but now it must deliver on the promise and move with speed to admit and welcome up to 62,500 refugees by this October.

“Amnesty International USA renews its call for the United States to admit at least 125,000 refugees for Biden’s first full year as President.”

Background and context

Every year, the President determines the number of refugees who should be resettled to the US in the upcoming fiscal year, signaling the United States commitment to protect those fleeing violence and persecution. There are over 100,000 refugees awaiting resettlement to the United States — including 35,000 refugees already approved to resettle in the United States. The U.S. has resettled less than 3,000 people this year. In 2021, over 700 refugees have had their flights canceled at the last minute. Many had sold their belongings and moved out of their homes.

On April 28, Amnesty International USA released a “Welcome Pledge” as Biden marked 100 days in office, to voice the values that the President and his administration should embrace in order to build a country that is a place of welcome, refuge, respect, and dignity for all. The pledge—signed by many celebrity artists including George Takei, Angelique Kidjo and many more—urges the administration to welcome people as new neighbors, colleagues, classmates, friends, and families and seeks to hold accountable the lawmakers who do not.

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. President Biden is now on track to admit and resettle the lowest number of refugees in the U.S. refugee program’s 40-year history.

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.

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.

In 2020 Amnesty International USA presented its policy recommendations to the Biden transition team on increasing U.S. refugee admissions

Read more:

By Maintaining Lowest Refugee Admissions in United States Resettlement History, President Biden Turns His Back on Refugees Around the World (April 16, 2021)

The United States is Failing Refugees Under President Trump (October 1, 2020)

Refugee Admissions Numbers are a New and Shameful Low (July 18, 2019)

New Refugee Cap is an Abandonment of Refugees, Congress Must Oppose (September 17, 2020)