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Last week, President Trump signed an executive order to reduce the total number of refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. to historic lows. The Dallas Morning News’ editorial team published a piece over the weekend pointing out that closing more options for arriving to the U.S. legally could lead to people making a more treacherous trek to get to the U.S.
Below is an excerpt from the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News. Find the story in its entirety here.
Last week, largely overlooked amid the sound and fury of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump issued another executive order that alters the way this nation treats those who come to America seeking asylum from persecution and violence.
Sure to be challenged in the courts, the president’s order gives governors and mayors the new authority to dictate how many refugees — if any — can be resettled in their state or town. As Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the refugee resettlement agency HIAS, told us recently, the order amounts to “a refugee ban, but state by state, city by city . . . and we don’t think it’s legal.”
We agree with Hetfield and believe the president’s order violates the spirit and letter of the Refugee Act of 1980, which established an orderly and transparent process for refugee resettlement in the wake of the Vietnam War. It also runs counter to who we are as a nation, and — if let to stand — will sow greater strife and divisiveness at the state and local level.
Yet, sadly, the order does not surprise us. Shortly after assuming office it became clear that Trump’s promise to crack down on “illegal” immigration had, through constitutionally questionable executive orders and regulations, devolved into an executive-branch assault on long-established, legal means of immigration.
As we wrote last November, one of the ways this administration is curtailing legal immigration — in addition to new rules that redefine who can seek asylum in the U.S. — is by accepting far fewer refugees into the country than previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike.
…This is all the more tragic because we’re living through the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, with more than 70 million men, women and children forcibly displaced around the world. Historically, the U.S. has led the world in refugee resettlement. But in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, for the first time, “Non-U.S. countries resettled more than twice as many refugees as the U.S.”
Why? Too often refugees who come to the U.S. in an orderly process are unfairly conflated with uncontrolled migration. Most asylum-seekers arriving at the southern border, for example, many of whom have legitimate claims, “are spontaneous unregulated arrivals,” said Hetfield, “people who put their lives at risk to get into the United States without documentation.”
But the millions of people resettled under the Refugee Act of 1980 are taking part in the “most legal form of migration that there is,” said Hetfield. “Nobody can even get on a plane until they’ve been interviewed multiple times and cleared by homeland security and all the intelligence agencies. It’s an entirely regulated and orderly process.”