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As Trump Administration Slashes Refugee Admissions, Advocates Blast Move as Contrary to American Values and National Security

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Experts and advocates are denouncing yesterday’s decision by the Trump administration to slash the refugee admissions ceiling to an abysmal 30,000 per year – much lower than the 95,000 per year average since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Vox’s Dara Lind illustrates the record lows with must-see charts; below is an excerpt of her latest explainer:

If the Trump administration actually takes its 2019 cap seriously and resettles close to 30,000 refugees, it will represent a substantial increase from 2018 levels.

On the other hand, if it takes the reduction from 45,000 to 30,000 as a reason to further reduce its capacity for refugee screening, it may fall as short of 30,000 next year as it did of 45,000 this year.

That’s what refugee advocates fear will happen.  They know that the Trump administration doesn’t feel a global obligation to resettle refugees — because Trump himself has said so. He’s laid out a theory of humanitarian aid in which it’s the responsibility of nearby rich countries to help refugees go home (or, at least, that’s what he’s expressed when the refugee crisis is far from the United States). They know that the administration’s key players, including Chief of Staff John Kelly and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, are suspicious of refugees — and that Miller has attempted to stop information about refugees’ contributions to the US from reaching the president and the public.

Below, we excerpt just a few of the many voices decrying the administration’s announcement:  

International Rescue Committee Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Said Nazanin Ash:

Today’s announcement of the Administration’s intention means it has further reduced its promise to protect these vulnerable populations, backpedalling on promises to religious minorities, a commitment to leave no one behind who assisted U.S. troops, and on strategic goals in some of the most volatile regions in the world.

The refugee program was already reviewed, strengthened, and deemed safe and secure to restart by the Administration. This was an opportunity for the Administration to show its humanitarian heart following its attacks on asylum; temporary protected status for Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and others; and unaccompanied minors.

In justifying its policy intention, the Administration has pitted those seeking asylum against refugees. A choice between asylum programs and refugee programs is a false one. The Administration has the resources it needs to effectively administer both programs, as historic admissions levels prove. The U.S. refugee admissions cap since 1980 had averaged over 95,000 annually prior to this administration, with past Republican presidents setting its highest admissions levels.

HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield:

President Trump has once again betrayed America’s history and global leadership in providing safe haven for innocent human beings fleeing violence and persecution. By setting the refugee number this low, this administration is betraying the commitments we made after World War II – followed by decades of bipartisan support – to ensure that the world never again turns its back on innocent people seeking safety. During a period of unprecedented crisis, America has signaled it is a nation in retreat, and as a result the outlook for refugees looks even more bleak.

Center for Migration Studies Senior Director of International Migration Policy Kevin Appleby:

Reducing the refugee number to another all-time low signals to the world that we are abdicating our moral leadership, which undermines our foreign policy and national security interests. Congress should exercise its oversight responsibility and push back hard on this low number through every tool at its disposal.

Human Rights First Advocacy Strategist for Refugee Protection Jennifer Quigley:

Don’t be fooled, Secretary Pompeo announcement of the lowest refugee admissions goal in U.S. history during the world’s worst refugee crisis since WWII is the latest assault of the most vulnerable people in the world and an abdication of American Ideals.

Church World Service President and CEO Rev. John McCullough:

This announcement is nothing short of an all-out attack on vulnerable families seeking to rebuild their lives in safety. Setting the refugee admissions goal at 30,000 an historic low – is an affront to the countless American communities who have welcomed refugees and understand that they are valuable members of their cities and towns. We urge President Trump to hear the calls of people of faith across America who demand that the United States continue to remain a beacon of hope for refugees forced to flee for their survival, and to resettle at least 75,000 refugees in FY 2019.

ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt:

This decision is a moral failure and yet another attack by this administration on refugees seeking haven from unimaginable circumstances. These xenophobic immigration policies fly in the face of our values as Americans. Now many people fleeing for their lives will not find safety in this country—a country that should be a beacon of hope and freedom for all.

Faith in Public Life CEO Rev. Jennifer Butler:

The United States cannot stand idle while a global refugee crisis worsens. With over 65 million people displaced, to even entertain welcoming just 30,000 people over the next year is a moral failure.

Center for American Progress Vice President for National Security and International Policy Kelly Magsamen:

The announcement tonight by the Trump administration that it will reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States to 30,000—the lowest level in the history of the refugee program—is not just immoral and shameful but also bad for U.S. national security and prosperity.

American refugee programs have been an important tool of our foreign policy and have contributed to our global reputation and security. They have also allowed us to rally others to do more. Refugees go through intensive vetting, contribute every day to the American economy and enrich our society. Through this cynical move meant to stoke his base for short term gain, President Donald Trump has once again made sure that America will be seen as retreating not leading, with long-term consequences for US national security.

Ban Ki-moon, eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 2007 to December 2016, in the New York Times: “The Refugee Crisis Is a Test of Our Collective Conscience”

Despite the scale of the refugee challenge, we need to think of it first and foremost as a crisis of solidarity. Whether the world can come together to effectively support these vulnerable groups will be a true test of our collective conscience….

Countries in the developing world — Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Bangladesh and Sudan — are host to among the largest numbers of refugees, while the prosperous nations of the global north have failed (with the exception of Germany) to share the burden fairly. This needs to change.

Wealthier countries must admit and resettle significantly more than the less than 1 percent of the world’s refugee population resettled in 2017. Such equitable sharing of responsibility is critical to ameliorating this crisis of global solidarity.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Stephen Miller is firmly in charge of the Trump administration’s drive to keep out and kick out immigrants and refugees. He and his allies throughout the administration have launched an unprecedented assault on the Statue of Liberty. President Ronald Reagan once called America the City on the Hill; now we’re known as the nation that separates families, turns away refugees and builds walls.

With senior administration officials mimicking the rhetoric and policy proposals of white nationalists, our national security, international reputation and commitment to foundational ideals is being undermined on a daily basis. In fact, look for more such moves, as the White House seeks to stoke fear and demonize newcomers in a cynical and desperate attempt to hold onto power in the 2018 midterms. Let’s be real: only a change in power will result in a change in policy.