All Time Low number of 15,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S FY 2021

Lowest-ever number of 15,000 refugees to enter United States for FY 2021

October 01, 2020

CONTACT: press@bridgesfaithinitiative.org | 202-417-7099


It is shameful and un-American that President Donald J. Trump has proposed the lowest ever number of 15,000 refugees to enter the United States for the fiscal year 2021.

“The U.S. is shredding its values by setting an all-time low number of 15,000 refugees to enter the country in 2021,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director Policy & Advocacy. “At this time of great need when there are 26 million refugees in this world, the U.S. should lead by example and set a number that is worthy of the United States’ values of welcome,” she added.

According to the Refugee Protection Act of 1980,  the President sets the number of refugees that will be resettled in the U.S. for the following year by October 1st. By law, the President must consult with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to set this number.  The President together with the departments of State and Homeland Security had proposed15,000 refugees to be admitted for FY2021, in a report sent to Congress yesterday (September 30). The administration has not had consultations with the Democratic Party members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees as of yesterday.

Further, the President has conflated the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and asylees, “The United States anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in Fiscal Year 2021.  Of that number, up to 15,000 would be refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and more than 290,000 would be individuals in new asylum cases.”

The Refugee Resettlement Program in the U.S is separate and does not impinge on the number of asylum seekers that arrive at the border.  Under the law the President can only set the number for refugee resettlement. To seek asylum is a right an there should be no attempt to limit asylum seekers. All who claim asylum must be heard.

For the fiscal year 2020, which ended on September 30th, the refugee resettlement number was set at 18,000 of which only half the was resettled, mainly because of COVID-19 flight cancellations.

For the new fiscal year 2021 the President has yet again cited COVID-19 for such a low number of refugees. “It is appalling that the President is also using the COVID-19 pandemic to settle fewer refugees in the U.S. In the last few months, the UNHCR and U.S. refugee resettlement agencies have shown that the U.S. is able to resettle refugees safely,” said Ronnate Asirwatham.

“Despite the recession in 1980, the Refugee Protection Act was passed in Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Congress recognized that refugees were beneficial to our economy in times of downturn and good for America. We hope they won’t forget that bipartisan ideal,” Ronnate Asirwatham said.

“Our faiths teach us that we are one people in an interconnected world.”


Bridges Faith Initiative is an interfaith organization that seeks a world of peace, human rights, and democracy as we build relationships across political divides to move U.S. domestic and foreign policies forward. We support immigrant rights, civilian security and ending mass atrocities.