As October 1 Deadline Approaches, Former Leaders of U.S. Refugee Program Urge Support for U.S. Refugee Admissions

WASHINGTON—Seven former leaders of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program who served Republican and Democratic presidential administrations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on him to do everything in his power to increase refugee resettlement in the United States in Fiscal Year 2021. The current refugee admissions ceiling for 2020 already represents a dramatic and unprecedented reduction from the historic average.

The Refugee Act provides that the president authorize an annual refugee admissions ceiling each fiscal year, which begins on October 1. In fact, if the president does not announce a 2021 ceiling before October 1, all refugee arrivals will be interrupted.

“Regardless of party, lawmakers and the American public have celebrated the program as a pillar of our nation’s values,” the group wrote. “Throughout our tenure in public service, we have seen firsthand the benefits of a robust refugee resettlement program internationally and domestically.”

The letter goes on to express alarm over a Reuters report that the Trump administration is considering a suspension of refugee admissions.  

“We believe that any further reduction in refugee resettlement would represent the disregard of dire needs of displaced people around the world at a time when other governments are bearing substantial responsibilities to provide refuge,” the former leaders warn. “Moreover, a suspension would come in the context of enormous contributions of refugees already resettled in the United States, including refugees who are playing key roles as front-line workers in the current COVID-19 response.”  

Upon issuing the letter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration and Refugees International President Eric Schwartz reflected on the importance of refugees in U.S. communities:

The program is a credit to our nation, and American people have warmly embraced new arrivals, many of whom are now playing a critical role as first-line responders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be a sad irony at this moment if the president continues to turn his back on this vital program.

Signatories of the letter include Arthur Dewey, Frank Loy, Phyllis Oakley, James N. Purcell, Jr., Anne C. Richard, Eric Schwartz, and Samuel Witten. The cosigners represent more than 40 years of U.S. leadership under the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, and Carter administrations.

The full letter can be found here:

For press inquiries, please contact Refugees International Director of Communications Sarah Sheffer at