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National Security Leaders Call for President Biden to Raise the Refugee Ceiling Now

April 22, 2021

The Council on National Security and Immigration (CNSI) leaders urged President Biden to raise the refugee cap to 62,500 for the remainder of this fiscal year. In a letter to the president, CNSI leaders called for the fortification of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and asked for greater transparency surrounding the decision-making process.

Leaders asked for swift action to admit pre-approved refugees given they do not pose a security threat to the United States. In fact, the longer the administration waits to address pre-approved refugees — and the larger backlog of displaced persons worldwide — the greater the long-term risk to our national security.

Excerpts from the letter: 

The dismantling of the USRAP over the last four years under the false pretense that refugee resettlement is incompatible with national security has been heartbreaking. While we appreciate that your administration is struggling with addressing the current situation at the southern border, we urge you to move swiftly to admit pre-approved refugees because they are not a security threat. We believe, as you do, that a robust USRAP — which operates in accordance with rigorous security vetting procedures — is vital to our national security.

We recognize there is much work to be done to restore the USRAP, but USRAP partners overseas and within the United States are limited in what they can do to rebuild their infrastructure until you sign the Presidential Determination expanding the refugee ceiling. We urge you to act quickly to raise the ceiling to 62,500 this fiscal year, en route to a more robust number in 2022. The longer we wait to address the backlog of vetted and approved refugees — let alone the growing number of displaced persons worldwide — the greater he long-term risk to our national security. We also recommend that you couple this announcement with a clear message that the southern border remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to deter migrants from making the perilous trek to the United States ensure lawful, order processing of the most vulnerable. 

In your inaugural address, you promised to “always level with [us].” Transparency with the public and the many participants in the USRAP is needed. We are hard-pressed to imagine a reason why the ceiling should not be raised immediately; but, if there is, in your judgement, a sufficient reason, we ask you to level with the American people and share your plan to address these capacity challenges and restore the refugee program as promised during the campaign and your transition.

You can read the full letter here.

In addition, last week, CNSI issued a statement on President Biden’s initial decision to continue the Trump-era refugee cap of 15,000. Founding CNSI Leader and former DHS Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention, Elizabeth Neumann remarked, “I fear that refugees left to languish in the queue for long periods of time could become vulnerable to bad actors exploiting their resentment and hopelessness — creating potential radicalization paths for the next generation of extremism and terrorist recruits. President Biden made a promise he needs to keep. He needs to formally raise the ceiling to signal to U.S. Refugee Admissions Program partners and the globe that the U.S. is returning to our historic values of being a safe haven for the most vulnerable.”