Trump Continues Turning His Back on Refugees

The U.S. reduces the refugee admissions ceiling to 30,000

September 26, 2018


Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was lowering the number of refugees it will accept into the country from 45,000 refugees, a record low since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980, to 30,000 refugees, a drastically lower figure than the 110,000 mark that was set in 2017, the year that President Trump took office. This new figure coincides with a litany of policies that exacerbate the trend in U.S. immigration policy toward a points-based immigration system in which the applications of refugees and immigrants are considered in terms of their relative worth to society. Since President Trump took office, this trend has dovetailed with more sinister policies that ignore the harms that typically befall refugees and extends ‘zero tolerance’ to those who seek refuge.

The decreased figure, therefore, does not, as Pompeo said in his remarks, “continue the United States’ long-standing record as the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration” — already a dubious claim given that U.S. Presidents tend to set the figure at around 95,000. Rather, this Presidential directive drastically limits our nation’s capacity to sufficiently live up to her values and attend to the over one million asylum seekers, whose applications have already committed to processing this fiscal year, and to the growing numbers of refugees whose circumstances consist within a ever increasing global refugee crisis. The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends report shows that, in 2017, one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds.

Pompeo’s statements highlight a concerted, perhaps malicious, effort to misrepresent the actions taken by this administration. Pompeo conflates the number of asylum-seekers with the drastically decreased refugee ceiling to say that the U.S. is still one of the more generous immigrant-welcoming nations in the world. Even still, the U.S. does not always max out the figure they set at the beginning of the fiscal year. This fiscal year, set to end on September 30, the U.S. has yet to settle half as many refugees as their self-imposed 45,000 ceiling would allow. When considered as the obfuscating diversion that it is, Pompeo’s statement to not view the 30,000 figure as “the sole barometer” of the United States’ commitment to humanitarian aid rings hollow.

The harms administered by this year’s lowered cap are particularly heinous when considered alongside the role of U.S. foreign and domestic policy in creating, increasing and marginalizing refugee populations, as well as the capacity of the U.S. to accommodate those refugee populations. What is clear is the history of trapping refugees and migrants between a foreign policy which drives them from home and a domestic policy which drives them back, and the disenfranchisement, displacement and territorial destruction which necessarily follow.

The harms also extend beyond those whose applications for asylum may now never be heard. This week, the Daily Beast reported on the collateral damage being done to those groups who aim to support refugees currently in the country and undergoing resettlement. The report implicates the decreasing number of resettled and integrated refugees and the increasingly more prejudiced attitudes taken by Americans toward refugees.

The latest news announced by Pompeo should be condemned on its face as the culmination of exacerbatory foreign and domestic policies that promises only to displace scores more people and further keeps America from fulfilling her promise enshrined on the Statue of Liberty to welcome immigrants.

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