FY 2018 Refugee Admissions at Record Lows

Update:  As of August 21st, 2018, zero additional refugees have been resettled in Maine since first publishing this post on July 31st.   The number still stands at only 65 refugees, with barely one month remaining in the fiscal year.

Refugees have been a reliable and constant source of in-migration to Maine since the Refugee Act of 1980’s passage.  In FY 2016, the U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 refugees, about 650 of whom were resettled in Maine.

At the end of 2016, the number of refugees worldwide was an estimated 22.5 million. One year later, that number had increased to an estimated 25.4 million refugees.

Yet at a time of record high global refugee numbers, for FY 2018, the administration set the U.S. refugee admissions ceiling at 45,000, the lowest in nearly 40 years.  In actuality, due to the “Refugee Ban” and increased hurdles for U.S. refugee visa issuance, the U.S. is on track to admit fewer than half that number.   In a July 17, 2018 letter expressing concern to the Secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security and State, a bipartisan group of 63 Congressional representatives (including Maine’s Rep. Chellie Pingree) noted that only 16,429 refugees had been resettled in the U.S. as of July 9, 2018.

As the Cato Institute notes when proposing that the U.S. should accept more, not fewer refugees, from 2012 through 2017 new refugees and asylees represented only 0.2% of the U.S. population.  This ranks the U.S. at 50th in the world in the number of refugees accepted as a share of the receiving country’s population, even when including the far higher refugee numbers accepted under the prior administration.  With our nation’s birth rate falling to its lowest in thirty years, and with “baby boomers” retiring, the U.S. can certainly afford to take a larger role in resettling the world’s refugees.

In Maine, as of July 31st, only 65 refugees have been resettled, a mere 10% of the number two years ago.   With only two months left in the fiscal year,  resettlement staff in Maine doubt that even 90 refugees will be resettled here this year.

As the 2018 Making Maine Work report published this month made clear, growing Maine’s workforce is vital for Maine’s economy, and immigrants are an essential component of that growth.   Federal actions dramatically reducing refugee admissions to the U.S. and Maine not only undermine our nation’s values, but also harm our economy.