Stay “woke” and informed on humanitarian policies and issues affecting your neighborhoods and people all around the world. This week’s word is on: REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT CAPS. Want to learn more about the importance of advocacy on issues like these? Visit irusa.org/advocacy
September 28, 2018
As the number of conflict zones around the world remains high, it’s inevitable many people from countries around the world will seek to find refuge in other places. Those seeking to come to the United States, though, will face an even steeper climb than the already hilly terrain that was set in place last year.
On September 17, the Trump administration announced that in 2019, the cap for the number of refugees resettled in the United States will be 30,000.
That limit is even lower than the 45,000 refugee resettlement cap the administration set for 2018, and that number had already been the lowest limit in the history of the public-private program since its inception in 1980.
Even more disturbing, the number of actual resettled refugees is less than half that number, with the number being 20,918, as of mid-September, according to The New York Times.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the lower cap and lower rate of resettled refugees, saying that they are reflective of the extensive vetting process that has been implemented to keep the United States safe from potential enemies.
“We must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent entry of those who might do harm to our country,” Pompeo said. “The American people must have complete confidence that every granted resettlement in our country is thoroughly vetted. The security checks take time, but they’re critical”
Not all lawmakers saw it that way. Far from it.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) described the lowered cap as a “cruel, arbitrary decision,” and as a policy that “will only rob us of people who make America great with their hard work and desire to make a better life here.” A fellow Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), described the move as “an abdication of U.S. moral principles and international leadership that will almost certainly lead to the loss of innocent lives.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) criticized the administration for failing to get input from the legislative branch about the cap, saying that it is the administration’s “statutory mandate to inform and consult with Congress.” Following Grassley’s comments, the State Department said it will consult with Congress on reaching a final number on a refugee resettlement cap.
To be fair, Trump is not the first president to ignore consulting with Congress on the refugee resettlement numbers, as The Hill newspaper reported. Both Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) said as much in their joint letter to the administration. What’s clear is that the refugee resettlement program cap numbers have been in a downward trajectory, which could send a perception that the United States is becoming a less hospitable, less compassionate, and less welcoming nation.
Compared to previous administrations, the numbers look disturbingly small. During the second term (2013-2016) of President Barack Obama, the yearly refugee resettlement cap ranged from 70,000 to 85,000. The actual number of resettled refugees during those years were 69,296 (2013), 69,987 (2014), 69,933 (2015), and 84,994 (2016).
During the administration of President George W. Bush, the annual limits ranged between 70,000 and 80,000 refugees. In most cases, the number of actual refugees accepted was lower than the cap, if not much lower. For example, the Times reported that while the annual refugee resettlement limit in 2002 was 70,000, only about 28,000 refugees were accepted.
There is no question a vetting process is necessary to detect potentially dangerous elements, but what’s not acceptable is using that argument as a front to gradually weaken and undermine a program that, for the most part, has been effective during its nearly four-decade span.
The so-called travel ban that was proposed in the early days of the current administration singled out predominantly Muslim nations, making people from those countries feel alienated and uncared for. A letter signed by many Democratic lawmakers last week was sent to the administration and highlights that alienation. They wrote that only 44 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the United States this year.
Islamic Relief USA holds compassion as one of its five vaunted values, and that is certainly a characteristic that is needed to address the sensitive issue of helping vulnerable populations from other nations who seek safety in America. The holy Quran mentions the importance of helping refugees, such as in Surah 59 (al-Hashr). This value needs to extend to the federal government, in order to not only help keep people safe, but to ensure that promising individuals around the world can help keep America great each and every day.
Isn’t that the goal after all; to keep America great? The chances of that happening improve if America remains a nation of diversity, marked by different races, cultures, ethnicities, and religions.