A Partnership Between the Penn Biden Center and the National Conference on Citizenship The Refugee Admissions Project

Over the last decade, persistent armed conflicts, pervasive violence, and the erosion of international norms for the protection of civilians have contributed to an enduring refugee crisis on nearly every continent. Today, nearly 80 million people – roughly 1 percent of humanity – are forcibly displaced worldwide. 

In June 2020, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and the National Conference on Citizenship launched a joint project to identify concrete recommendations for innovations in refugee policy, personnel, process, and systems to reinvigorate U.S. humanitarian diplomacy, maintain the rigorous vetting of refugees, and securely increase refugee admissions multifold. The final report provides an operational roadmap for rebuilding and reimagining the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The project also produced a complementary paper that situates the findings of the report within the broader context of U.S. foreign policy and proposes an agenda for how the U.S. can restore and advance its leadership on refugee protection globally.

Read the executive summary.

Read the full report, “A Roadmap for Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”

Read the complementary paper, “Restoring U.S. Global Leadership on Refugee Protection.”

View a Refugee’s Journey Map, a visual representation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program from the perspective of a refugee. 


The report is based on more than 100 consultations and interviews with a range of experts and stakeholders who have been involved in shaping policy, implementing operations, and/or advocating for refugees. The qualitative research drew upon the best practices of human-centered design to ensure the report’s recommendations reflected the needs, challenges, and opportunities of refugees and their families. 

About the Team

The project was led by Ariana Berengaut and Eric Hysen from June to October 2020. The core team included Rosanna Kim, Lara Kohl, David Leftwich, Salma Mousa, and Sarah Saltiel. Consultants who provided additional guidance and support to the core team included Betsy Fisher, Rachel Landry, and Mary Beth Schmidt. Recognizing the complex operational challenges presented by USRAP, this team brought a cross-functional set of skills in policy, operations, human-centered design, data science, and software engineering.

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In a 2018 editorial for The New York Times, Ariana Berengaut and Antony Blinken argued that the refugee program is a national security imperative.

The refugee program is also an important tool of American foreign policy and has enhanced our global standing and security. We evacuated Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon, took in Soviet Jews in the 1980s, airlifted Kosovars fleeing genocide in the 1990s, admitted thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” orphaned by war in this century. In each instance, we sent an important signal to the world — and so goaded governments into action, undermined the legitimacy of authoritarian leaders and defended religious freedom.