- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on the JudiciaryIntroducedApril 9th, 2019
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 2146?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 2146
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, introduced this bill to protect refugees:
“The Grace Act is an important step in countering the Trump administration’s gutting of refugee resettlement. This bill draws a line in favor of refugee protection and addresses this Administration’s indifference to their plight. President Trump’s attack on refugees and dismantling of American values must stop.”
Senate sponsor Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) adds:
“The United States of America was founded by refugees, and we should not close our borders, our shores, or our hearts to those seeking safety and a better life. President Trump’s decision to slash refugee admissions has been a drastic departure from our longstanding commitment to vulnerable people around the world, and our understanding that the United States must be a leader in resettlement efforts. The GRACE Act will reestablish our moral authority around the world and ensure that we do not forsake those most in need of our assistance.”
“We face a global crisis with people displaced in every region of the world - from those who fled their homes today, to those born a refugee. We need real solutions that actually meet this crisis head on and treat refugees like the human beings they are, with human rights. The GRACE Act is a vital step towards restoring the United States’ commitment to the vital, and far underutilized, protection of resettlement to those who need it most.”
Human Rights First, which supports this bill, argues that increased refugee admissions would “help support developing, front-line countries and advance U.S. national security interests.” It notes that “[f]ormer CIA directors, national security advisers, and secretaries of defense, state, and homeland security have explained that resettling refugees advances U.S. national security interests.”
The Trump administration says its current cap of 30,000 refugees for FY 2019 is in response to the overwhelming number of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says, “This year’s refugee ceiling reflects the substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum in our country, contributing to a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense.” Pompeo adds that the administration’s lowering of the refugee ceiling also reflects the need to balance refugees’ needs with U.S. security interests:
“This year’s refugee ceiling reflects our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of the American people as President Trump has directed. We must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent those who might do harm to our country.”
This bill has the support of the Executive Board of Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Church World Service, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Amnesty International, HIAS, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Human Rights First, World Relief, Oxfam, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Center for Victims of Torture, CODEPINK, Franciscan Action Network, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, Brooklyn For Peace, North Carolina Justice Center, and STAND, the Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities.
Of Note: As of March 31, 2019 — six months into FY 2019 — State Dept. figures showed that 12,151 refugees had arrived in the U.S. by that point in the fiscal year. If that rate remains constant through FY 2019, the total number of refugees admitted into the U.S. will be 19% below the 30,000 ceiling set by President Trump in September 2018. However, refugee groups say, this isn’t because people no longer want to come to the U.S. as refugees — instead, it’s because far fewer people have been able to gain admission under the Trump administration.
Until the current administration, both Democratic and Republican administrations championed the refugee resettlement program. Now, for the first time in over 30 years, the U.S. is no longer the world leader in resettling refugees — instead, Canada has taken that position. Looking at America’s refugee resettlement rate per capita, the comparison is even worse: at three refugees per 1,000 citizens, the U.S. has one of the lowest per capita resettlement rates in the world.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 19.6 million refugees worldwide in 2017 — up from 9.9 million in 2012. In 2017, children under 18 years old represented 52% of the refugee population. Syria (6.3 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.4 million), Myanmar (1.2 million), and Somalia (986,400) were the top five countries of origin for refugees in 2017.
Every year, the president, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions each year. The State Dept. and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) are the primary agencies responsible for assessing the viability of different refugee populations for admission, as well as U.S. government officials’ ability to process them. Historically, the average number of refugees allowed into the U.S. each fiscal year has been around 95,000. However, the Trump administration has set much lower numbers: when President Trump took office in January 2017, he lowered the FY 2017 refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000. In FY 2018, the Trump administration set the ceiling at 45,000; it again lowered the ceiling, this time to 30,000, for FY 2019.
- Original Cosponsor Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) Press Release
- International Rescue Committee Call to Action (In Favor)
- Human Rights First Press Release (In Favor)
- Statement of Principles on America’s Commitment to Refugees
- American Immigration Council Fact Sheet (Context)
- The Washington Post (Context)
- UNHCR Global Trends Report: Forced Displacement in 2017 (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / MarioGuti)