Pingree, 61 Colleagues Urge Pres. Biden to Increase & Expedite Acceptance of Ukraine Refugees
Letter also urges Biden Admin provide resettlement opportunities to asylum seekers & refugees from Afghanistan, who reside in Ukraine
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and 61 House colleagues today wrote directly to President Biden, urging the administration to quickly ratchet up America’s acceptance of refugees from Ukraine as Russian forces lay waste to Ukraine and displace millions.
“We ask your administration to take several necessary steps to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian people and a robust resettlement program for Ukrainian refugees within the United States,” the members wrote President Biden. “The burden of sheltering and settling refugees cannot fall solely on European countries. America must also do its part.”
More than three million refugees have already fled their homes in Ukraine, and more than four million Ukrainians are expected to flee as the illegal Russian invasion continues.
On May 3, 2021, President Biden increased the refugee cap from 15,000 to 62,500. However, the U.S. only resettled 11,411 individuals in FY21, the lowest rate since tracking began in 1975. President Biden additionally raised the refugee cap to 125,000 for FY22, however the members expressed their disappointment that only 6,494 individuals have been resettled in FY22 as of February 28, 2022, and pushed the President to take additional action to help Ukrainians fleeing for their lives. Even before Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the world was already facing the largest refugee crisis in history. An unprecedented 82.4 million people across the globe have been forcibly displaced from their homes because of violence, persecution, famine, and war. Approximately 26.4 million of those individuals are refugees, and more than half are children.
The text of the members’ letter is below.
Dear President Biden:
We applaud your decision to grant Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians currently in the United States, but there remain millions of refugees who are stranded after fleeing Ukraine who we must not ignore or abandon. We ask your administration to take several necessary steps to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian people and a robust resettlement program for Ukrainian refugees within the United States. We have a series of recommendations for your administration to accomplish this goal, which can be found below.
As you have noted, the long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world.Beyond this moral duty, the United States has a legal duty under our international agreements to accept refugees. We were pleased when you lifted the historically low refugee cap—from 15,000 to 62,500—before the end of FY21, and then up to 125,000, for FY22. These actions have helped restore America’s promise to meaningfully honor our obligations. While this number was set during a global refugee crisis, it was before the war in Ukraine began, which demands that we revisit refugee admissions.
More than 3 million refugees have already fled their homes in Ukraine, and more than 4 million Ukrainians are expected to flee as the illegal Russian invasion continues.Humanitarian organizations have catalogued a Russian airstrike on a civilian breadline in Chernihiv, a ballistic missile strike on a civilian hospital outside Vuhledar, and repeated bombardment of civilians fleeing the Russian advance on Kyiv.
Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians, as well as members of the international press, have only worsened as their illegal invasion of Ukraine has continued to falter. Russia reportedly bombed a theater in Mariupol, where innocent civilians were sheltering, and was marked with the word “children” in huge letters which were clearly visible from the air. Recently, it has also been reported that Russian forces in Ukraine are hunting down international journalists, in an effort to kidnap and coerce them into recanting their reporting. There have even been reports that a Russian airstrike indiscriminately bombed a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, which wounded at least 17 people. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are internally displaced, with families sheltering in bomb shelters, basements, and subway stations to avoid Russian attacks.
Refugees who have fled Ukraine are currently housed in temporary shelters throughout European countries including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania, many with no idea where they will go or what their lives will look like in the coming months and years. For example, reporting has indicated that cities in Poland are struggling to house and feed these refugees, in which two Ukrainians enter Poland every three seconds, and the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have already arrived in Poland would create the country’s second-largest city. Indeed, these countries face immense burdens as a result, with Europe facing its worse refugee crisis since World War II. The burden of sheltering and settling refugees cannot fall solely on European countries. America must also do its part.
America has set the refugee ceiling as high as 231,000 since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980. On April 16, 2021, you announced that given new “emergency refugee situation[s]” stemming from “increasing political violence, repression, atrocities, or humanitarian crises,”, you were revising the allocation of refugee admissions to ensure the United States was responding adequately to those developing emergency situations. You also announced that, if the 15,000 refugee cap was reached before the end of FY21, you would consider a declaration increasing the refugee cap as appropriate. You increased that refugee cap on May 3, 2021, from 15,000 to 62,500. However, our nation only resettled 11,411 individuals in FY21, the lowest since we started tracking in 1975. Further, we are disappointed that only 6,494 individuals have been resettled in FY22 as of February 28, 2022.
Given the foregoing facts, we respectfully request that you consider the following recommendations to address the growing international refugee crisis:
The Statute of Liberty displays Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, partly reading: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This sentiment still reflects the values of our nation, a symbol of freedom and opportunity to the world. Today, we have the opportunity—and the obligation—to put these words into power by welcoming these refugees with open arms.