Legislation would prevent U.S. President from manipulating refugee admissions levels


Washington (April 9, 2019) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-02) introduced the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act, legislation that would prevent a U.S. President from setting a Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions at a level below 95,000 in a given fiscal year. This bill also ensures that each officer responsible for refugee admissions or resettlement treats the Presidential Determination as a goal, and mandates quarterly reports to Congress with specific oversight requirements.


In September 2017, President Trump announced that the cap for fiscal year 2018 refugee admissions would be set at a record-low 45,000. President Obama had set the previous year’s admissions cap at 110,000 — in line with the historic average of 96,000, and justified by the more than 20 million refugees across the globe. Yet in fiscal year 2018, the United States welcomed a mere 22,491 resettled refugees, less than half the 45,000 cap. President Trump has since doubled down on his resolve to undermine the refugee admissions program; in September 2018, he set the fiscal year 2019 refugee ceiling at a mere 30,000.


“The United States of America was founded by refugees, and we should not close our borders, our shores, or our hearts to those seeking safety and a better life,” said Senator Markey. “President Trump’s decision to slash refugee admissions has been a drastic departure from our longstanding commitment to vulnerable people around the world, and our understanding that the United States must be a leader in resettlement efforts. The GRACE Act will reestablish our moral authority around the world and ensure that we do not forsake those most in need of our assistance.”


“The Grace Act is an important step in countering the Trump administration’s gutting of refugee resettlement,” said Rep. Lofgren, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. “This bill draws a line in favor of refugee protection and addresses this Administration’s indifference to their plight. President Trump’s attack on refugees and dismantling of American values must stop.”


“As a son of African refugees, I am a firm believer in the promise of the American Dream, which is why I find this Administration’s continued actions to slash refugee admissions to our country so appalling,” said Congressman Neguse. “The United States has long welcomed those who seek safety and refuge in trying times and the GRACE Act will ensure America’s bedrock commitment to uplifting those who need us the most is upheld. This legislation will re-build our moral authority on resettlement and ensure critical oversight of this administration’s immigration policies.”


Other Senators co-sponsoring the GRACE Act include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).


Other House of Representatives members co-sponsoring the GRACE Act include Representatives Eliot Engel (NY-16), Jerry Nadler (NY-10), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Barbara Lee (CA-13), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-01), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Donna Shalala (FL-27), and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03).


A copy of the GRACE Act can be found HERE.


“The IRC is thankful for Sen. Markey’s leadership in ensuring US resettlement goals reflect the needs of the current global crisis,” said Jennifer Sime, Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs, International Rescue Committee. “With nearly 69 million forcibly displaced people and 25.4 million refugees worldwide, Sen. Markey’s GRACE Act couldn’t come at a better time. The IRC is hopeful this is the beginning of a restoration of America’s historical role in protecting the world’s most vulnerable.”


“CWS applauds Senator Markey’s introduction of the GRACE Act, which would restore the life-saving refugee resettlement program to historic norms,” said John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service. “Over the last two years, the administration has sought to destroy America’s ability to respond to global humanitarian crises and protect the persecuted. The damage caused to refugee families, American communities, and our nation’s standing in the world cannot be understated. This legislation would hold any administration accountable to resettling a number of refugees that better reflects our country’s strong bipartisan history as a leader in refugee resettlement and our faith tradition’s commandment to welcome the stranger.”


“We face a global crisis with people displaced in every region of the world - from those who fled their homes today, to those born a refugee,” said Ryan Mace, Refugee Specialist, Amnesty International USA. “We need real solutions that actually meet this crisis head on and treat refugees like the human beings they are, with human rights. The GRACE Act is a vital step towards restoring the United States’ commitment to the vital, and far underutilized, protection of resettlement to those who need it most.”


“LIRS is proud to support the GRACE act—a bold piece of legislation that would provide safety to tens of thousands of refugees who remain in dangerous situations overseas,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO, LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service).“I have seen first-hand how important this legislation would be for the children and families seeking safety in the beacon of hope America has long provided; it is not about a number—it’s about saving lives.”   


This legislation is endorsed by the Executive Board of Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Church World Service, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Amnesty International, HIAS, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Human Rights First, World Relief, Oxfam, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Center for Victims of Torture, CODEPINK, Franciscan Action Network, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, Brooklyn For Peace, North Carolina Justice Center, and STAND, the Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities.