The 1980 Refugee Act requires the executive branch to consult with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before the President may issue a determination authorizing the number of refugees to be admitted in the next fiscal year. For the past two years, the Trump administration has ignored this important requirement, announcing its intended refugee admissions number in the press before consulting with Congress. This year, the administration missed the statutory deadline for consultation, conducting the required meeting after the new fiscal year began.
RCUSA’s Executive Director, Mary Giovagnoli, notes, “The Administration’s disregard for refugees, Congress and the American people is reflected in its failure to take seriously the importance of Congress’s role in the refugee admissions determination process. Setting the refugee admissions level at 30,000 people for Fiscal Year 2019, the lowest in the program’s history, is another indication of the administration’s efforts to dismantle the refugee program.
The consultation component of the Refugee Act is designed to foster dialogue and analysis regarding the strategic and humanitarian consequences of U.S. refugee resettlement policy. Failing to take that requirement seriously suggests that the Administration has no interest in hearing that America wants a more transparent and robust refugee admissions program, and that many Americans want the President to admit far more than 30,000 refugees. This major reduction of the refugee program continues, leaving thousands more refugees in harm’s way, despite the warnings from diplomats, national security experts and members of Congress that there are significant foreign policy repercussions when the U.S. abandons its leadership role in refugee resettlement.
The handling of the Presidential Determination process is another reminder that this administration must be held accountable if we expect it to have a refugee program consistent with U.S. humanitarian and strategic interests. We continue to urge Congress to demand higher refugee admissions, but to also hold the administration accountable for its expected promise of 30,000 refugee admissions. With so many refugees in need of resettlement, not a single one of the 30,000 slots should go empty.”