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National Security Leaders React to the Biden Administration's Direction for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program

April 17, 2021

Press Release

President Biden announced yesterday that he would not increase the refugee resettlement ceiling for FY2021, electing to leave the cap at 15,000 — a historic low. As stated by CNSI Leader and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Admiral James Loy, “Today’s announcement by President Biden wields a major blow to the tens of thousands of refugees who have been granted entrance to the United States and are awaiting placement.” This is not only a disappointment, but deeply concerning from a national security perspective.

During the campaign and the transition, President Biden expressed the need for American leadership to address the 79.5 million forcibly displaced people throughout the world. As former national security officials, we understand the complexities the Biden administration faces in addressing both the global refugee population and the surge at the southern border during a pandemic. That does not, however, negate the United States’ obligation to fulfill its promises to refugees who have been waiting for years to reach their new home.

Moreover, we believe the continuation of the previous administration’s stance toward refugees will damage our global alliances, our image, and our national security posture. 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.”

The Biden administration has stated that key agencies lack the capacity to resettle additional refugees at this time. We call on the Biden administration to announce their plan to address these challenges in the coming days and raise the refugee cap to an appropriate number by the target date of May 15 established by Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. CNSI Leader and former Chief of Staff for the Office of Policy and Development at DHS, Marc Frey, stated “We appreciate that USCIS and ORR are overwhelmed by the humanitarian crisis at our southern border; however, action is needed to resolve these issues and honor our promises to those seeing refuge.

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