Rep. Omar Joins Letter to Call for an Increase in United States Refugee Admissions Programs Cap as Afghanistan Crisis Continues

August 27, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) led a group of 66 members of Congress, including Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-05), in calling on the Biden Administration to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap to no less than 200,000 when President Biden issues his Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 before October 1st.

In Afghanistan­--where the Taliban has overthrown the Afghan government--Afghan allies of the U.S., women’s rights activists, civil servants, and more are fleeing violence and persecution under Taliban rule. As Special Immigrant Visas continue to be processed, the lawmakers are urging the administration to increase the refugee cap to meet the massive humanitarian need. 

“As the people of Afghanistan face an unfolding tragedy, the United States must open its doors to refugees fleeing the devastating consequences of a 20-year U.S. military occupation and 40 years of U.S.-fueled war,” said the lawmakers. “To ensure their safety, we urge you to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap to no less than 200,000 when you issue your Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 before October 1st. We also urge you to expand humanitarian parole to provide refuge to vulnerable Afghans who are in grave danger following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. 

The lawmakers continued, “After decades of disastrous U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, one thing is clear: we have a moral responsibility to provide safe harbor and refuge for the Afghan people. Now, the growing humanitarian crisis is further exposing the horrific costs of our endless wars. The United States must do everything in its power to protect those who have borne the brunt of this decades-long conflict, especially Afghans who are at increased risk of persecution or death by the Taliban…”

“The urgent need to double down on our efforts to welcome and protect refugees is evidenced by the racist, virulent anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment that exploded over the last decade — often as a result of U.S.-fueled wars — and was further heightened under the last administration and now with the evacuations occurring in Afghanistan…”

The Trump administration lowered refugee caps to a historic low of 15,000.  During his campaign for President, Joe Biden committed to "set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values, and the unprecedented global need."  With the emerging threat to hundreds of thousands of Afghans now under Taliban rule, the lawmakers are calling on Biden to uphold that pledge and deliver a significant increase to refugee admissions. 

“Mr. President, the time to act to save lives is now,” the lawmakers concluded. “We are ready to work with you to appropriate the necessary funds to be used for humanitarian needs and, specifically, as is necessary is used to ramp up the evacuation and processing of Afghans and others seeking refuge around the world.”

For full text of the letter, click here or find below.

Full Letter Text

Dear President Biden,

As the people of Afghanistan face an unfolding tragedy, the United States must open its doors to refugees fleeing the devastating consequences of a 20-year U.S. military occupation and 40 years of U.S.-fueled war. To ensure their safety, we urge you to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap to no less than 200,000 when you issue your Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 before October 1st. We also urge you to expand humanitarian parole to provide refuge to vulnerable Afghans who are in grave danger following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. 

After decades of disastrous U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, one thing is clear: we have a moral responsibility to provide safe harbor and refuge for the Afghan people. The U.S. war in Afghanistan has caused irreparable harm to Afghans as well as to the Americans who served there. Now, the growing humanitarian crisis is further exposing the horrific costs of our endless wars. The United States must do everything in its power to protect those who have borne the brunt of this decades-long conflict, especially Afghans who are at increased risk of persecution or death by the Taliban.

Increasing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Programs cap above 200,000 will mean that hundreds of thousands more people can escape danger to find greater security and hope in the United States. Beyond Afghanistan, refugee crises are also ongoing in other parts of the world — especially as political violence erupts in Ethiopia, Lebanon faces economic collapse, and Haiti grapples with yet another devastating earthquake following the assassination of its president. And as climate change accelerates, destroying homes and ruining crops, displacement is only on the rise. In the face of these overlapping crises, increased refugee protections are vital to ensuring that people can reach safety and rebuild their lives. 

In the weeks before your FY22 Presidential Determination for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, there is an immediate need to provide refuge for Afghans. We appreciate your dedicated effort to expedite Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Afghans who have assisted the United States but it is imperative to focus on evacuation of all SIV applicants and the thousands of other vulnerable Afghans who now fear for their lives. We request that you provide humanitarian parole to the families of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, SIV applicants and their families, as well as those who would have qualified for the Priority 2 program. Humanitarian parole must also be extended to other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, including women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and journalists. 

The urgent need to double down on our efforts to welcome and protect refugees is evidenced by the racist, virulent anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment that exploded over the last decade — often as a result of U.S.-fueled wars — and was further heightened under the last administration and now with the evacuations occurring in Afghanistan. To those questioning if it is really our responsibility to provide refuge for those fleeing conflict, persecution, or dire living conditions — yes, it is. In fact, it is not only our responsibility, but it is our greatest strength. 

Mr. President, the time to act to save lives is now. We are ready to work with you to appropriate the necessary funds to be used for humanitarian needs and, specifically, as is necessary is used to ramp up the evacuation and processing of Afghans and others seeking refuge around the world.