Posted on July 28, 2020

Refugee Resettlement Is Close to Collapse. That Was Trump’s Plan.

Jessica Goudeau, New York Times, July 28, 2020

Since the end of World War II, the United States has almost always viewed itself as a leader in resettling refugees forced to flee their homes around the world. But in just three years, President Trump has reduced the flow of refugees to a trickle.


His first executive order, in January 2017, indefinitely suspended the resettlement of Syrian refugees, froze resettlement admissions and barred entry to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. Later that year, Mr. Trump announced that he was capping refugee admissions at 45,000, — less than half of the 110,000 the year before under President Barack Obama. It was the first time that the ceiling was below 67,000.

Refugees are the most thoroughly vetted group to enter the United States. In addition to a screening by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, the federal government conducts its own vetting process involving multiple law enforcement, national security and intelligence agencies, including fingerprint and biometric security checks, as well as medical screenings. The entire process can take more than two years.


Yet the Trump administration has used every tool in its arsenal to slow or stop resettlement: bureaucratic, rhetorical, political and financial. {snip}


Of the growing number of displaced people, over 1 million are eligible for refugee resettlement in 2021. But the Trump administration slashed the admissions ceiling in fiscal year 2020 to only 18,000; as of July 7, according to Church World Service, only 7,544 refugees had actually been admitted.

The pandemic has deepened the plight of people fleeing conflict and persecution. And yet, citing risks of infection from foreigners, the U.S. government has indefinitely effectively sealed the country off to migrants seeking protection.

If elected, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has pledged to end the “vile Muslim ban” on his first day in office. He plans to set the admissions cap at 125,000 refugees and “raise it over time commensurate with our responsibility, our values and the unprecedented global need.”

The Trump administration’s destruction of the refugee resettlement program is too important to ignore. I keep thinking of the Syrian artist in Idlib Province who painted a mural of George Floyd in June. It was especially poignant to see support for the Black Lives Matter movement coming out of Idlib, the last region of Syria where rebels resist Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Syrians are still barred from entering the United States.

Refugee resettlement will not survive another four years under this administration. The loss of this program would have major ramifications for America’s international relationships, not to mention the thousands of people seeking refuge. If the nation’s reckoning with race is a mirror into its ideals on justice and equality, then refugee resettlement is the testing ground for our ideals.