News & Resources

Press Release: IRAP Applauds Executive Order Aimed At Rebuilding U.S. Refugee Resettlement


February 4, 2021


Henrike Dessaules



(New York, NY) – Today, President Biden signed an executive order to build back and strengthen the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which has been decimated over the last four years. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) applauds the order, which outlines a path to enhance refugees’ access to protection in the United States and takes numerous steps to improve the efficiency and equity of the refugee resettlement process.   

Today’s order:

  • Rescinds numerous policies designed by the Trump Administration to dismantle the refugee program, such as the refugee ban and accompanying “extreme vetting” memo from October 2017 and the executive order requiring state and local consent on resettlement;
  • Instructs the federal agencies that oversee refugee admissions to review the program, including vetting processes, strengthen procedural protections for refugees, and improve efficiency and transparency to address the current backlog while ensuring refugees are treated with dignity and basic fairness;
  • Orders a review of the Special Immigrant Visa program to address delays and obstacles in processing and consider whether it is appropriate to open the program to other nationalities; 
  • Proposes allowing teleconferencing and access to counsel for refugee interviews; and
  • Orders a report on the impact of climate change on forced migration, including opportunities for protection and resettlement.

The proposals address many issues that have long been roadblocks in the fair and efficient processing of applications for refugee resettlement, endangering refugees in urgent need of reaching safety and prolonging their separation from family members in the United States. IRAP has long advocated for many of these policies and highlighted the opaque and onerous changes to the vetting system as a particular barrier to resettlement for many refugees. IRAP has also been a proponent of developing a private sponsorship program as a complementary pathway to safety, and pushed to have the government address the egregious delays in Special Immigrant Visa processing

“Today’s order represents an important first step towards rebuilding the refugee program and signals a return to America’s role as a global leader in providing protection to the persecuted,” said IRAP’s Policy Director, Sunil Varghese. “It will be an arduous road to return to and surpass previous levels of resettlement and to address the urgent needs of those that have been left stranded for these last years, but we at IRAP applaud the administration’s efforts to improve the integrity and equity of the program and are committed to working with the new administration to reach these goals.”

IRAP urges the relevant federal agencies to take immediate action pursuant to this executive order and calls on the Administration to immediately consult with Congress and issue a revised, robust Presidential Determination on refugee admissions for this fiscal year, in line with the policy goals and values laid out in today’s executive order.

IRAP experts will discuss the implications of both today’s order on refugees and the previous orders on asylum in a press call tomorrow, Friday, February 5, 2021 at 11:00 am ET