A refugee is defined by international and U.S. law as a person who has fled their country due to persecution or fear of future persecution and cannot safely return home.
Today, there are more refugees than at any point in recorded history.
The United States has always had a proud tradition of welcoming refugees. This country was founded as a safe haven for people escaping religious persecution, and time and time again, refugees have found freedom and prosperity in the U.S.
But you may not know that the United States’ system for deciding how many refugees to resettle each year was formally established nearly four decades ago when Congress unanimously passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
The legislation provided a roadmap for what we now call the “Presidential Determination,” or simply the “PD,” and codified America’s commitment to protecting refugees.
The law states that before each fiscal year, the president must consult with Congress to determine the maximum number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States that year.
This PD doesn’t dictate how many refugees will end up arriving, but it sets a ceiling that serves as a goal for the government and refugee resettlement agencies like HIAS to strive to reach together.
Since 1980, the average PD has been set at 96,229 refugees. Additionally, the PD has only dipped below 70,000 refugees once, in 1986, when it was set at 67,000.
But the PD is about more than numbers. Through resettlement, America offers safety and freedom to refugees who have left everything behind. Less than one percent of the more than 20 million refugees in the world will end up being resettled in a third country.
In the face of the largest global refugee crisis like never before in history, the PD directly represents the United States’ capacity for offering safe haven to refugees.
The Presidential Determination is also about America's international leadership.
America has a proud legacy of welcoming refugees and the rest of the world pays attention to the example we set. Because so many other countries are currently hosting massive numbers of refugees and displaced people, the United States must share some responsibility in order for other countries to continue doing their part.
In the next few weeks, President Trump will announce the Presidential Determination for 2018. HIAS and other refugee supporters are urging Congress to work with the administration to ensure that the PD is at least 75,000 refugees.
A Presidential Determination of less than 75,000 would go against our country’s founding values, history and the level of response required by today’s global crisis.
It would also send a signal to the rest of the international community that refugee protection is no longer a priority for the United States.
Worst of all, it would mean that substantially fewer refugees would be able to find the safety necessary to restart their lives.
Want to help support U.S. refugee protection? Take action to help ensure that Congress urges the president to set a PD that is in line with our history and our values.