September 27, 2019

Van Hollen, Senators Oppose Cruel and Devastating Cuts to Refugee Admissions

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined a group of Senators in opposing the Trump Administration’s reported plans to slash the U.S.’s refugee cap to admit only 18,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2020—a cap which, if not reversed, would represent the lowest level of refugee admittances in American history. Denying admittance to refugees beyond this cap could put tens of thousands of lives at risk, lead to greater instability, and detract from U.S. global influence.

Van Hollen was joined in today’s push by Senator Jeff Merkley (OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“We urge you to heed the recommendation of top U.S. military officials and faith leaders to open our doors to eligible refugees from all corners of the world,” the Senators wrote in a letter to President Trump. “We know that returning refugees to their countries of origin would put their lives in immediate danger and would perpetuate the very cycle of violence from which they sought to escape. A generous U.S. refugee policy spares tens of thousands from terrible fates.”

The Senators also emphasized that a robust refugee policy is key to U.S. national security and military policy.

“Top U.S. military leaders are among the strongest proponents of restoring U.S. global leadership in welcoming refugees, particularly in the areas where U.S. Armed Forces operate,” the Senators continued. “Each U.S. embassy and geographic combatant command depends on the assistance of a cadre of translators, security officers, and other advisors from host countries. Our foreign partners risk their lives in support of our national security, and the refugee resettlement program is one way we can show gratitude. That is why two dozen retired generals wrote you to ensure ‘that the next refugee admission goal is commensurate with global resettlement needs.’ Their call was echoed by former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, who urged that the United States not leave our allies in the lurch: ‘over the 17 years of war, numerous Iraqi nationals have risked their lives and their families by aligning with the our diplomats and warfighters providing essential mission support. We owe them support for their commitment.’”

Last year’s cap of 30,000 already represented the lowest level of U.S. refugee admittances since the U.S. first instituted a cap on refugees in 1980. Cutting the cap by an additional 12,000 represents a remarkable retreat from the U.S.’s historical role as a beacon of hope for the oppressed around the world.

Leading refugee groups also joined the Senators’ call today. “I urge President Trump to listen to members of Congress today,” said Eric Schwartz, President of Refugees International. “Refugee resettlement provides lifesaving protection to the world's most vulnerable populations and serves U.S. interests. To further cut refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2020 would not only undermine U.S. objectives but would punish individuals and families who have faced unimaginable horrors.”

“Refugee Council USA is grateful to Senators Merkley and Markey for their continued leadership in promoting and protecting the US refugee resettlement program,” added Bill Canny, Executive Director of US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Migration and Refugee Services, and Chair of Refugee Council USA. “With more than 70-million people forcibly displaced and greater than 25-million refugees worldwide, the US must resume the mantle of leadership, protecting the world’s most vulnerable through the life-saving refugee resettlement program. As first-hand witnesses to the positive impact resettlement has on refugees and communities across the United States, as well our knowledge of refugees living overseas who cannot return home, we must not turn our backs as the administration attempts to pull up the welcome mat.”

The full text of the Merkley-Markey letter is available here and follows below.