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For Immediate Release

Press Release

The Trump Administration Set a New Low Number for Refugee Admissions at 15,000 for Fiscal Year 2021


The International Rescue Committee (IRC) today reacts to news that President Donald J. Trump set the refugee admissions goal at just 15,000 refugees for fiscal year 2021, a new all-time low number for the third year in a row and a further abdication of American global leadership in the face of growing need in crisis zones across the world. The level of 15,000 will be limited to refugees from specific categories of admissions, potentially leaving out more than 1.4 million of the world’s most vulnerable refugees still in need of resettlement. This late announcement came a full month into the fiscal year, causing undue delays to thousands of vulnerable people left in harm’s way.

The Administration also included a restriction on individuals from Somalia, Syria, or Yemen, requiring that individuals from these three countries “shall not be admitted as refugees” unless they meet specific humanitarian carve-outs. This is yet another tragic continuation of the administration’s pattern of reducing access to the U.S. refugee admissions program for Muslim refugees. Nothing has changed about the vulnerability of these populations. As refugees in the U.S. admissions pipeline, their needs for safety have been verified and security checks completed by U.S. security and intelligence agencies. The Trump Administration’s arbitrary bar on their admission will only serve to keep refugees in danger.

Jennifer Sime, the Senior Vice President of Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration at the International Rescue Committee said:

"The Trump administration continues to gamble with people’s lives as the President set the annual refugee admissions goal to a new historical low number of 15,000. This number is out of sync with the urgency that refugees waiting for resettlement abroad face and the growing instability across the world as new crisis zones continue to develop over old fault lines.

“The administration’s admissions categories are yet another departure from precedent and only act to build on the ever-increasing bureaucratic impediments that delay, confuse, and block the processing and resettlement of refugees. These categories are highly restrictive, creating levels of exclusivity that leave out refugees from many of the world’s worst refugee crises, and especially those in Africa.

“Since 2016, the number of refugees worldwide has grown by more than 14 million while the Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions cap by more than 80 percent. The impacts of this sharp retreat have been especially felt by Muslim refugees, many of whom who are now subject to additional 'extreme vetting' that has had the effect of decreasing admissions from these countries by 93 percent over three years.

“The Administration has reneged on U.S. humanitarian obligations, trampled on long-held American values, and undermined U.S. interests and its own stated policy goals—including by failing to provide safety to thousands in need of refuge because of their assistance to U.S. troops or because of religious or political persecution.”

The Trump administration did not reach last fiscal year’s goal of 18,000 refugees, missing it by nearly 40 percent as a result of massive bureaucratic impediments and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. has long set the bar for refugee resettlement, a goal averaged at 95,000 refugees per year across both Republican and Democratic administrations and in line with historic norms, commitments, and American ideals. Communities across the U.S. recognize both the importance of welcoming and the contribution made, by refugees who are granted safe haven. The IRC urges the Administration to urgently meet this long-standing and essential commitment—and for Congress to hold the Administration accountable for meeting it—lest any more innocent lives are put at risk.


The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

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