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Ahead of Refugee Admissions Announcement, State and Local Officials From All 50 States Urge Investment in Refugee Resettlement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

September 8, 2022


Spencer Tilger


More Than 380 Elected Officials Sign Bipartisan Letter to President Biden

(New York, NY) – Today, 385 state and local elected officials from across the country sent President Biden a letter urging him to meet his administration’s commitment to resettle refugees in Fiscal Year 2023 by restoring the nation’s refugee resettlement infrastructure. The letter was organized by the Refugee Advocacy Lab, an initiative hosted at Refugees International and co-founded by the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Refugee Congress, with additional support from Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). 

The bipartisan letter was released ahead of the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions, which will set the annual resettlement target for Fiscal Year 2023. While last year the Biden administration raised the annual admissions goal to 125,000, as of August 2022 the United States had only resettled 19,919 refugees.

In the letter, officials from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, expressed their strong support for welcoming refugees in their communities. 

Signatories included Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) and 44 mayors, including Justin M. Bibb of Cleveland, Buddy Dyer of Orlando, Michael Hancock of Denver, Bruce Harrell of Seattle, Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago, Lauren McLean of Boise, Elaine N. O’Neal of Durham, Sylvester Turner of Houston, Randall L. Woodfin of Birmingham, and Michelle Wu of Boston.

Signatories also included state legislators, city council members, and other state and local elected leaders from all levels of government and across party lines.

State Representative Tram Nguyen (D-MA) said, “My family was able to survive and thrive because we were able to come to America as refugees. The refugee resettlement program saved our lives and helped us achieve success beyond our expectations. It’s vital to continue to save lives of refugees fleeing poverty and violence; by helping them succeed we enrich our communities.”

State Representative Sandra Feist (D-MN) said, “Ensuring that the United States meets its commitment to providing safe refuge to displaced people is both a moral imperative and smart public policy.”

San Jacinto Council Member Brian E. Hawkins (R-CA) said, “America will always be a lighthouse of hope for those seeking refuge. Helping those in need should never be a political issue, but an humanitarian effort to protect those seeking asylum.”

In order to reach President Biden’s resettlement goals, officials urged the administration to rebuild America’s refugee resettlement infrastructure.

State Senator Kim Jackson (D-GA) said, “We must do everything we can to continue to welcome new Americans, and that requires devoted resources to meet the moment.”

State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-FL) said, “Welcoming refugees is foundational to our identity as Americans – we have a lot of work to do in rebuilding our immigrant and refugee programs and should not delay in doing so.”

Many officials highlighted the vitality refugees bring to communities across the United States.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-NY) said, “Refugees enrich our communities by contributing to local economies, creating new businesses, enriching diversity by sharing lived experiences, and reminding us how precious our shared human connections are.”

Lancaster Commissioner Christa Yoakum (D-NE) said, “Refugees add to the social and cultural vibrancy of our community. Immigrants bring creativity and entrepreneurship. They innovate and create jobs.”

The letter’s organizers celebrate the support of officials at every level of government to welcome refugees and call on the Biden administration to take concrete steps to increase USRAP capacity and funding. 

Refugee Advocacy Lab Director, Kate Brick, said, “Communities across the country have historically welcomed refugees and displaced people, knowing that it’s not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing. This past year was no different, with Americans from Utah to Maine stepping up to provide safety to newcomers, including Afghans and Ukrainians displaced by conflict. The Refugee Advocacy Lab joins hundreds of elected officials to reiterate our belief that our country is stronger when we give people seeking safety a second chance. We ask that President Biden invest in rebuilding our refugee resettlement infrastructure so that it is strong enough to achieve the administration’s goals and restore America’s legacy of welcome.”

Refugee Advocacy Lab Policy Advisor and IRAP Senior Policy Counsel, Balqees Mihirig, said, “With a record-breaking 100 million people displaced worldwide, over a third of whom are children, the need for resettlement has never been more urgent. As of August 2022, the United States had only resettled 19,919 refugees, representing less than 16 percent of the Biden administration’s 125,000 target. This letter from elected officials representing all 50 states demonstrates widespread support for rebuilding this lifesaving program, and calls on the President to ensure that the admissions goal for FY23 is actually met.”

To view the letter and signatories, click here.