Refugee admissions are the lowest in history

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The White House has just announced it will only allow 30,000 refugees to be admitted to the United States for 2019. Access to information is needed now more than ever

At the height of the worst global refugee crisis in modern history, the current administration dropped the number for refugee admissions to the USA to 45,000 in 2018 (and in fact only admitted fewer than 20,000) and is now proposing an even lower number of refugee admissions for 2019: just 30,000.

This number is not only the lowest in the history of our resettlement program, but comes precisely when our example as a global leader is needed most.

Why the United States resettles refugees

The resettlement program serves as an important diplomatic and national security tool in several ways:

  • It provides a powerful counter-narrative to the propaganda spread by terrorist organizations around the world.
  • Actively demonstrating its own commitment gives the USA leverage to apply pressure to countries with far larger influxes of migrants to continue their vast efforts to stabilize refugee populations in volatile regions.
  • Providing safe haven to those supporting US military missions overseas, such as the Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who work alongside US troops, is key to US ability to recruit local support in national security endeavors.

Refugee admissions in the United States

The Refugee Act of 1980 was unanimously passed by the US Senate to create a permanent refugee admissions program. Since it went into effect, every president—with the exception of the current administration—has passed a refugee admissions ceiling averaging 90,000 per year from 1980 to 2017.

Since 1980, the US resettlement program has successfully welcomed over 3 million refugees.

Impact of the low 2019 refugee admissions cap on US communities

For the reasons above and many others, a dramatic cut in refugee admissions has a significantly negative impact on US interests. For refugees themselves, this impact is more immediate. Those overseas awaiting travel will return to a life of imminent danger and the absence of a future for themselves and their children. In the USA, in addition to spreading a deep feeling of unwelcome in newcomer communities, the cap means that thousands of resettled refugees will not be reunited with family members from whom they were separated by tragic circumstances.

Even if the USA restores its commitments in the future, the system is structured so that those already in the approved pipeline are likely to have their authorizations expire in the interim. This is enormously traumatic for these individuals, with real and lasting effects that can be permanent. Likewise, separating families has rippling effects across the wider community.

A second major impact of the Presidential Determination is the dismantling of the infrastructure in place that supports successful resettlement. The nonprofit providers that offer these services will not be able to sustain long-term gaps in funding. Many local programs will shutter their doors and several national networks that coordinate this work are expected to be disbanded. Most of these organizations not only handle the immediate short-term logistics for new arrivals, but they also provide long-term services that support lasting self-sufficiency, such as citizenship classes, resource and referral services, and skill development services. The loss of these services exacerbates barriers that keep refugees and immigrants already in the USA from achieving their full potential. This will weaken our communities and endanger our common future.

The need for access to information

By leveraging the power of technology, USAHello is committed to working hard to help fill the gaps that are being widened by the dramatic reduction in refugee admissions. We know that everyone wins when newcomers are able to connect to the resources and training they need to grow and thrive in the USA. We know information is the essential ingredient for successful integrations.
USAHello provides access to multilingual local information and resources, accessible and free of charge to anyone, anywhere. We are a web-based clearinghouse where refugees, immigrants and native-born residents alike can come to learn about the services available in their local communities. Through the website and the soon-to-be-launched In Your City app, USAHello allows users to search their community for everything from health services to local Bhutanese grocery stores. The resources section of our website provides information for newcomers on US culture and systems, helping them build their new lives here.

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Education is often the key to opening doors in the USA. This is why we at USAHello have built the highest standard of GED and citizenship classes and made them free for all. We offer dual-language support in our virtual classroom to help English language learners further advance their language skills while they study for their tests..

Finally, we know that successful integration includes the receiving community. USAHello provides online training and resources for individuals looking to volunteer and offers courses for educators working to integrate refugee and immigrant children into their classrooms.


Until recently, the USA has been the global leader in refugee protection, leading the efforts of developed nations to provide permanent resettlement to refugees for whom there are no other options. As a nation founded by refugees, the United States, through its resettlement program, has an opportunity to live its values and fulfill its moral duty to provide safe haven to the most vulnerable.

As the system is being systematically dismantled, we are aware our work is needed now more than ever. We will work alongside our partners in the USA and around the world to provide access to the information, resources and educational tools that refugees and immigrants need to succeed.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.