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Pleading for refugees

The United States could suspend its resettlement program

Refugees and migrants at the port of Lavrio, Greece, on Tuesday Associated Press/Photo by Petros Giannakouris

Pleading for refugees

WASHINGTON—With the United States on track to accept the lowest yearly number of refugees since 1975, a bipartisan group of former executive branch officials asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week to make room for more.

“We believe that any further reduction in refugee resettlement would represent the disregard of dire needs of displaced people around the world at a time when other governments are bearing substantial responsibilities to provide refuge,” the letter said. The writers included former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Frank E. Loy and former Director of the Bureau of Refugee Programs James Purcell.

President Donald Trump limited refugee admissions due to the coronavirus pandemic, but entries into the country had already hit a record low before that. The administration has dramatically cut back the number of accepted refugees each year since Trump took office.

Since 1980, when the modern refugee resettlement program began, presidents typically have set a ceiling of about 95,000 refugees, with an average of 81,000 coming to the United States annually. For fiscal year 2020, Trump allotted 18,000 spots for refugees but only resettled 10,892.

If the administration doesn’t announce a new ceiling for fiscal year 2021 by Thursday’s deadline, refugees cannot resettle in the United States, with a few exceptions. Reuters reported earlier this month that U.S. authorities were considering postponing all refugee admissions.

“A suspension would walk away from a proud U.S. tradition of welcoming those individuals to our country who are seeking better lives for themselves and their children,” the letter writers told Pompeo.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, almost 80 million people have been forced out of their homes around the world. Of those, 26 million are classified as refugees.

Kyle Ziemnick

Kyle is a former WORLD Digital news reporter. He is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate.


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