The Refugee Ceiling

Every fall the president of the United States sets a refugee ceiling– the maximum number of refugees who may enter the country in a fiscal year– called the “Presidential Determination.” In fiscal year 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017), about 53,700 refugees resettled in the U.S., a reduction of 31,300 from the previous fiscal year. The following year, the nation’s refugee ceiling was set at 45,000, a new low at the time, and the U.S. ultimately admitted about 22,500 refugees. The refugee admission ceiling was 30,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2019, and refugee admissions reached this cap. For fiscal year 2020, which started Oct. 1, 2019, a ceiling of 18,000 refugees has been set. The consequences of low admission ceilings has been profound, as tens of thousands of refugees remain in precarious or dangerous situations overseas. Please see below for recent trend in refugee admissions:

Credit: Refugee Council USA, 2019 (

In the face of these reductions as well as travel bans, many people are speaking out in favor of a more welcoming stance toward refugees and an increase in the number of arrivals.  Add your voice to the chorus of those standing up for refugees and let the presidential administration and your elected officials know that these executive orders are not representative of the United States that we know and love. Below are some suggested actions:

  1. Contact the White House by Phone via the comment line at (202) 456-1111 to leave a message or the phone switchboard at (202) 456-1414  to speak with a paid staffer who will take a message.
  2. Call your U.S. Senators and Representatives at (202) 224-3121. Urge Congress, which must approve each Presidential Determination, to endorse an arrival increase to 85,000 for FY 2019-20.

Please call this line 3 times to be connected with your Representative and Senators. (See How to Contact Your Elected Officials)

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State], and I support refugee resettlement in the U.S. I am strongly opposed to the current “Presidential Determination” that has reduced the number of arrivals to 18,000 this year. I urge you to do everything you can to increase the rate of arrivals so that at least the 85,000 will be admitted before the end of the federal fiscal year.

Prevent the Detrimental Fee Schedule Proposed by USCIS

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its proposal to increase the naturalization application fee from $640 to $1170, as well as fee increases to other applications (green card, DACA renewal and asylum.)  Heretofore, refugees have not had to pay for green card applications; the proposal abolishes that exemption. In addition, USCIS proposes to eliminate the crucial application fee waiver for low-income applicants. It is a devastating proposal for refugees and other immigrant groups and needs a strong response.

Congress has made it clear in statutory instruction that there should not be financial barriers to citizenship acquisition and that the process should be affordable and accessible. (H. Rep. No. 115-948 accompanying H.R. 6776, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2019).  USCIS’ proposed elimination of filing fee waivers and the proposed fee increases would severely undermine Congressional intent.

As an advocate of hard-working refugees, please call your Senators and Representative at (202) 224-3121 and ask that Congress:

  • Continue to put pressure on the executive branch to keep the pathway to citizenship affordable and accessible.
  • Retain the refugee exemption from fee payment for adjustment of status (green card)
  • Retain the fee waiver option, thus making it possible for low-income refugees to become permanent residents through green card acquisition and later to become citizens through naturalization.

Please see above for more information about contacting your representatives.

The proposed fee increase is contrary to Congressional intent. Please ask that this proposal be dropped.