RCUSA sends FY24 refugee admissions recommendation to President Biden

Washington, DC – Forced displacement has reached new record-breaking highs. Over 110 million people worldwide have fled their homes because of violence, persecution, or other crises; 35 million of those are refugees. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that over 2.4 million refugees will be in need of resettlement in 2024, a need that far outpaces the growth of durable solutions from the international community.

Today, RCUSA sent a letter to President Biden with our recommendations in advance of the President’s consultations with Congress to set the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) Presidential Determination (PD). The PD is the annual refugee admissions goal, intended to be reflective of global need and domestic capacity.

RCUSA calls for a FY24 PD of at least 135,000, alongside bold programmatic reforms and accountability measures that will ensure the US will be able to resettle at least 200,000 refugees by FY26.

If the Biden administration is able to meet this 135,000 threshold for FY24 – directly reflective of their own stated capacity between traditional resettlement and private sponsorship pathways – it will be indicative of the success of good-faith efforts to rebuild refugee resettlement. This initial threshold must include significant programmatic reforms that will position the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to welcome a minimum of 200,000 refugees by FY26 and move forward with these levels in perpetuity, while maintaining responsiveness to the needs of clients and resettlement workers for success.

RCUSA’s letter to President Biden with its full recommendation and policy asks can be downloaded here.

“Our coalition members are partnering with the Administration to rebuild and improve refugee resettlement” said RCUSA Executive Director John Slocum. “That partnership includes being frank on where bold changes are still needed, where our country can and should be taking on greater leadership for the protection of refugees and forcibly displaced people. Advocates, policy experts, service providers, former refugees, and the American public are all working together to build safe and sustainable welcome in innovative ways. We look forward to the Administration continuing to work with all stakeholders to make ambitious resettlement goals a reality.”

“President Biden promised that America would lead by the power of our example. To deliver on this promise, the administration should resettle no fewer than 135,000 refugees in FY2024.   President Biden has assisted exponentially more forcibly displaced persons through humanitarian parole than through the US Refugee Admissions Program. Yet humanitarian parole leaves people in legal limbo, forcing them into an already broken and backlogged immigration and asylum system. In contrast, the underutilized USRAP provides vetted refugees with a clear pathway to family reunification, lawful permanent residence,  and citizenship.  According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 2.42 million refugees in need of resettlement.  The US has an important role to play in addressing this crisis, and should strive to do so by resettling at least 200,000 refugees per year by 2026. HIAS stands ready to apply its 120 years of experience in working with Jewish and refugee communities to support America’s renewed leadership in resettlement of the world’s most vulnerable,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS CEO.

“As we commend the Biden administration for the progress it has made in rebuilding the US Refugee Admissions Program, we must note that admissions in FY23 are still on pace to be far below this year’s PD. While we call for an FY24 PD of at least 135,000, we must ensure that this goal does not just remain an aspiration but that it becomes reality. We must also ensure that admissions are equitable for all refugees, particularly African refugees and other populations that do not receive enough attention but are just as in need of resettlement,” said Tsehaye Teferra, Ph.D. ECDC President and CEO.

“Continued investment and innovation in the United States Refugee Admissions Program is key to ensuring the US is able to reach its resettlement goals,” said Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Executive Director of Impact at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Building a robust and resilient refugee resettlement program will allow more displaced people around the world to have the opportunity to restart their lives safely in the United States.”

“As we consider the global challenges faced by displaced individuals and families, it is imperative that we reaffirm our commitment to providing sanctuary and support to those in need. My family was once offered hope for refuge, and it is our duty to continue offering this legacy of welcome to other families in need,” said Nejra Sumic, National Field Manager, We Are All America. “We must maintain our commitment to refugee resettlement and uphold our role as a humanitarian leader. By providing refuge to the persecuted, we showcase the strength of our nation and inspire others to follow suit.”

“As global displacement figures continue to skyrocket, resettlement remains a critical pathway to safety for refugees who have no other place to turn,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “The US must do its part to meet this need by continuing to invest in and rebuild the Refugee Admissions Program so that we can welcome those who seek our support.”

“Increased refugee resettlement in recent months suggests progress is being made, but this must be the year that the Biden administration sees its refugee commitments to full fruition,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “We urge officials to continue ramping up and streamlining overseas processing of refugee applications to ensure this lifesaving program remains relevant amid an unprecedented global displacement crisis. With so many lives on the line, the administration must take urgent and bold action to restore our global humanitarian leadership in refugee resettlement. Working hand-in-hand with our federal and community partners, we stand ready to resettle refugees, reunite families, and rekindle the American dream.”

“We are eager for the United States to continue the progress it has made this fiscal year in welcoming more refugees under our longstanding US Refugee Admissions Program,” US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) President and CEO Eskinder Negash said. “The administration must continue to rebuild the underlying infrastructure of the USRAP so refugees receive timely humanitarian protection and welcome in their pursuit of safety and security.”

“In the past decade, the number of refugees globally has more than doubled, and the need for third-country resettlement for the most vulnerable of cases is greater than ever,” said Myal Greene, President & CEO of World Relief. “Communities throughout the United States, including the church partners that are central to our mission at World Relief, are eager to welcome more. As part of the unique public=private partnership at the heart of the resettlement model, we urge the Biden administration to set a higher refugee ceiling next year and to ensure the resources and systems needed to increase the number of refugees welcomed next year and in the years to come.”

“The last several years have emphasized the ongoing need for the United States to be a leader in protecting and advocating for those fleeing persecution. Forced migration has and continues to increase at an unprecedented rate, and it is time for the current administration to follow through on its promise to demonstrate leadership in welcoming those seeking safety,” said Erol Kekic, Senior Vice President of Programs at Church World Service. “If we want to be regarded as leaders, we must behave like leaders; that means committing to a PD of at least 135,000, supporting necessary forms to create a more robust resettlement system, and investing resources and political will  in the futures of displaced individuals and families by rebuilding USRAP and strengthening permanent protections.”

“Unprecedented times require extraordinary action. We welcome all the necessary measures the Biden administration has taken to help displaced people from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, but others displaced by humanitarian crises around the world must not be neglected. The world has reached historic numbers of people displaced from their homes with 90% of them hosted by low and middle-income states. While the administration has taken steps to rebuild and strengthen the US Refugee Admissions Program, the US is still falling short of meeting its refugee admissions goal for FY23. We believe the US must continue the modernization and reconstruction of the US Refugee Admissions Program and meet a 135,000 goal for FY24 to ensure durable refugee solutions for those fleeing decades-old conflicts and crises to come,” said Hans Van de Weerd, Senior Vice President of Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

“As the global leader in refugee resettlement, it is vital that the United States make good on its promise to rebuild and strengthen our resettlement infrastructure so we can be well-positioned to meet our Presidential Determination target – something we fell far short of the past two fiscal years. With global needs at alarmingly high levels, the administration can and must minimize its reliance on temporary protection pathways and continue to invest in USRAP so that we can equitably welcome – at a minimum – 135,000 resettled refugees in FY24, while building toward a 200,000 target for resettling refugees,” Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director of Refugee Congress.

“The number of forcibly displaced persons, including refugees, is at an all-time high, and the global response to humanitarian crises around the world is lacking,” said C. Mario Russell, Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies of New York.  The United States must lead on refugee resettlement, as the world takes note of what we do, and, importantly, what we do not do. We urge the administration and Congress to work together to meet the initial goal to commit to 135,000 resettled refugees for FY 2024 and a long-term goal of reaching 200,000 in the near future. These are attainable and just goals, and without US leadership, refugees crises around the world will remain unsolved and lives will continue to be lost.”

Rachel Perić, Executive Director of Welcoming America stated: “our nation’s commitment to refugee protection and investment is not only about saving lives, but about our global leadership and continued ability to renew our democratic values and economic vitality as a welcoming nation. Welcoming America stands with RCUSA in calling on the Biden Administration to make the appropriate investments needed to not only welcome many more new Americans, but to ensure communities are prepared with the resources to capitalize on the strengths and talents of refugee families who, like my own, enrich our nation in countless ways.”

“The US Refugee Admissions Program is one of our nation’s most treasured, and effective, tools to live our values and enrich our communities,” shared Sarah Ivory, USAHello Executive Director. “It has long held the fervent support of the American public. It is essential that our public investment rises to meet the demands of the current global environment by supporting refugees with dignified welcome at the scale we know our nation is capable of.

Sasha Chanoff, CEO and Founder of RefugePoint, said that, “US action will galvanize other countries to increase resettlement as well. The Biden Administration must set a global example to reach those in peril who may have no other options for survival, and to reunite families. More resettlement means that fewer people will risk their lives on deadly journeys seeking safety. It also means more prosperity in America. Refugee entrepreneurs have revitalized depressed American cities, and refugees contribute 63 billion dollars more to the economy than they take in services over a decade, according to a government study.

“We commend the Biden administration’s progress in launching a private sponsorship program this year, expanding our nation’s capacity to resettle and welcome refugees,” said Community Sponsorship Hub Interim Executive Director Annie Nolte-Henning. “With the number of people forced from their homes at a record high, increasing the FY24 PD to 135,000 is one step toward sufficiently addressing ongoing needs and emerging crises. We must also invest in our country’s resettlement infrastructure and leverage complementary pathways and sponsorship programs like the Welcome Corps to fully meet the admissions level and uphold America’s tradition of providing refuge for those in need of safety and opportunity to live free from persecution.”

Media Contact: Sarah Seniuk, sseniuk@rcusa.org

RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach common refugee-related issues identically