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ICYMI: New York Times on Criticism of Obama Administration’s Syrian Refugee Resettlement Pace and Planned Central American Refugee Raids

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Advocates Call Approach Morally Wrong, Politically Stupid

A front page story in the New York Times highlights growing criticism of the Obama Administration for the slow pace in resettling Syrian refugees in America and for its planned raids against Central American refugees. The Times story, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and titled, “As U.S. Admits Migrants in a Trickle, Critics Urge Obama to Pick Up the Pace,” includes the following key excerpts:

“[N]early eight months into an effort to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States, Mr. Obama’s administration has admitted just over 2,500. And as his administration prepares for a new round of deportations of Central Americans, including many women and children pleading for humanitarian protection, the president is facing intense criticism from allies in Congress and advocacy groups about his administration’s treatment of migrants.

They say Mr. Obama’s lofty message about the need to welcome those who come to the United States seeking protection has not been matched by action. And they warn that the president, who will host a summit meeting on refugees in September during the United Nations General Assembly session, risks undercutting his influence on the issue at a time when American leadership is needed to counteract a backlash against refugees.

‘Given that we’ve resettled so few refugees and we’re employing a deterrence strategy to refugees on our Southern border, I wouldn’t think we’d be giving advice to any other nations about doing better,’ said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York.

‘The world notices when we talk a good game but then we don’t follow through in our own backyard,’ Mr. Appleby said.

…Humanitarian groups have denounced the administration’s approach, arguing that the president must recognize the Central American migrants as refugees.

‘The administration’s entire foreign policy has been built upon enforcement, not protection,’ said Anna Greene, the director of policy and advocacy, United States programs, for the International Rescue Committee. ‘If this situation was playing out far from our borders, our government would be funding a humanitarian response and demanding that other countries abide by their international obligations.’

The criticism comes as some of Mr. Obama’s allies on Capitol Hill are arguing that he has not done enough to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Twenty-seven Democrats led by Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, who was Mr. Obama’s partner in the Senate and maintains close ties with the president, told him in a letter this month that the administration “can and should do much more” to accept Syrian refugees.

‘The Syrian situation is the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our time,’ Mr. Durbin said in an interview, ‘and if we do not respond in a positive and proactive way, we’re going to have future generations asking, ‘Where were you?’’

The administration has scrambled to pick up the pace of resettling Syrian refugees, officials say. The Departments of State and Homeland Security sent a surge of personnel to Jordan this year to interview about 12,000 refugee applicants referred by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and officials have begun processing cases in Beirut, Lebanon, and Erbil, Iraq. But the numbers remain stubbornly low.

… A program begun by the United States in 2014 to allow Central American children with a relative in the country to qualify as refugees has approved only 300, an administration official said. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in January that he would create another initiative to admit as many as 9,000 refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras after processing outside the United States, but the program has not begun…”

In addition to being morally wrong and misguided on policy, the new immigration raids against Central American refugees may also have a potentially damaging political effect.

In a new Politico story titled “Dems Fear Obama Immigration Raids Could Hurt Latino Turnout,” Seung Min Kim captures, “on the ground, advocates say that the raids are making it more difficult to contact potential Latino voters. Though immigration enforcement officials may be targeting a relatively narrow swath of people, other immigrants can get swept up during the process, advocates say. That means immigrants are increasingly afraid of opening the door and interacting with strangers — throwing more hurdles in voter outreach efforts. This is particularly an issue with mixed-status families, when one person could be a U.S. citizen and eligible to vote while others are here illegally.”

The piece also quotes Cristina Jimenez, the co-founder and managing director of United We Dream, saying: “People are fatigued and outraged about the raids, and just when things should be turning to creating clean lines between the candidates, the Obama administration is dampening enthusiasm … [the raids are] definitely making it harder for United We Dream Action and other groups engaging in Latino and immigrant voters.”