Rebuilding the US Refugee Resettlement Program

Susan Martin
Date of Publication: 
August, 2020
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

This article briefly reviews the history of U.S. refugee policy and practice, with special attention to the actions of the Trump administration in the refugee field. The author notes that, from the time the Refugee Act of 1980 went into effect until 2016, the mean annual refugee admission ceiling was 98,000, while actual admissions averaged 83,000 in that same period. The Trump administration has set ceilings much lower — by FY 2020 it was 18,000, with actual admissions significantly lower. With greatly reduced admissions, the infrastructure that exists to resettle refugees — nonprofit voluntary agencies and state refugee offices — has been decimated. The author makes a number of short-term and longer-term recommendations for the next administration to rebuild our capacity to resettle refugees, starting with holding emergency consultations with Congress to increase refugee admissions for FY 2021. Recommendations for longer-term fixes include a “normal flow” admissions target of perhaps 98,000 set by legislation, in order to reduce the influence of politics on annual refugee admissions determinations.

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Martin, S. (2020, August). Improving the U.S. Immigration System in the First Year of the Biden Administration. Center for Migration Studies.