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State and Local Officials From All 50 States Sign Bipartisan Letter Urging Biden Administration to Increase Refugee Admissions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

September 21, 2021


Spencer Tilger


(New York, NY) – Today, the Refugee Advocacy Lab published a letter signed by more than 300 state and local elected officials from all 50 states and the District of Columbia urging President Biden to resettle at least 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022. In the bipartisan letter, the officials expressed their strong support for resettling refugees in their communities. Yesterday, the Biden administration announced its intention to raise the Presidential Determination on Refugee Resettlement to 125,000, a goal advocates and officials hope will be reflected in actual resettlement numbers. While President Biden raised the refugee admissions target in Fiscal Year 2021 to 62,500, as of August 31, fewer than 8,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States. 

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. Many signatories included messages highlighting the vital role refugees play in their communities.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said, “More than 60,000 refugees have arrived in Colorado since 1980, and we are thankful for their continued contributions to our great state. Today, there are more displaced people in the world than at any other point in history, including tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted the American mission in Afghanistan, and we urge the Biden administration to resettle 125,000 refugees next year. Colorado is a leader in refugee resettlement and integration, and we stand ready to welcome these individuals and families.”

Thirty-five mayors signed the letter, including Bill de Blasio of New York City, Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago, Michael Hancock of Denver, John Cooper of Nashville, Kim Janey of Boston, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, William Peduto of Pittsburgh, Steve Schewel of Durham, Buddy Dyer of Orlando, Lauren McLean of Boise, and Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson.

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

Utah State Representative Dan Johnson (R) said, “We are a great country. Providing opportunities to [the] less fortunate in the world is simply the right thing to do. I believe we have the capacity to effectively engage with a larger number of refugees and immigrants.”

Colorado State Representative Naquetta Ricks (D) said, “As a young girl, my family and I fled a Civil War in our native country, Liberia, and resettled as refugees in Aurora, Colorado. Since then, I have been able to live out the promises of America: I have attended university, started my own thriving small mortgage business, raised a wonderful daughter, and I am now the first ever African immigrant to serve in the Colorado legislature. Refugees like me bring heart, innovation, economic invigoration, and cultural vitality to our communities. We are fundamental to the fabric of this nation, and we ask President Biden to restore our nation’s promise of welcoming and resettling refugees.”

The letter’s organizers celebrated the support of officials at every level of government to welcome refugees and called on the Biden administration to back up this commitment with action. 

IRAP Senior Policy Counsel and Policy Advisor of the Refugee Advocacy Lab Balqees Mihirig said, “Officials from around the country came together to deliver a powerful message: refugees are welcome here. Now it is time for the Biden administration to make good on its promise to resettle at least 125,000 refugees. The number of refugees resettled this fiscal year fell significantly short of the administration’s target, highlighting the desperate need for substantial investments in the U.S. resettlement program to support refugees and the communities that welcome them.”

Refugees International Communications Director and Interim Director of the Refugee Advocacy Lab Sarah Sheffer said, “As the crisis in Afghanistan unfolds and the number of people worldwide in urgent need of protection rises, Americans in every corner of the country are stepping up to welcome our new neighbors so that they can begin rebuilding their lives and become integral parts of our communities. We join elected officials, Americans, and advocates across the country in asking the Biden administration to meet this moment with the leadership and bold action it requires by significantly increasing the Presidential Determination.”

International Rescue Committee Director, State Advocacy and State Strategic Lead of the Refugee Advocacy Lab Genevieve Kessler said, “Our state and local elected leaders know that their communities are enriched by a robust resettlement program. In the last year, state legislators introduced—and passed—dozens of measures to welcome refugees and support their integration through workforce development, strengthened language access policies, and other methods. The bipartisan support of this letter reaffirms what we know to be true—that communities welcome refugees.”

To view the letter and signatories, click here.