September 19, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the Trump administration is once again reducing the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in the coming year, from 45,000 to only 30,000 people. This is the lowest “ceiling” for refugee admittances in four decades and would be shameful at any time in history. The current migrant crisis, where over 68 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced, 25 million of whom are recognized as refugees, makes this reduction even more cruel and unconscionable.

Shockingly, Pompeo claimed that even with this policy, the U.S. is the most generous country in relation to the crisis. That claim is in no way credible. The reduction in accepting potential refugees has not been paired with increased efforts to welcome other displaced peoples or support for addressing the root causes of forced migration. The U.S. is hardly a shining example on foreign assistance, giving much less than many other industrialized countries as a percentage of gross national income.

Contrary to what Pompeo said, this new policy also isn’t about treating people seeking asylum in the U.S. justly. Pitting two vulnerable populations – refugees and asylees – against each other is a completely unacceptable response to a crisis. Setting a higher refugee ceiling in no way prevents us from ensuring that people seeking asylum at the border are treated with dignity and ensured a just and fair process to consider their claim. We could choose to do both, but this administration has repeatedly decided to do neither. Their actions – in the Muslim ban, in tightening rules on asylum seekers, in the atrocious policy separating children from parents at the border (where children are still waiting to be reunited with their families) – make their intentions on immigration clear. This new refugee “ceiling” is intended to reduce the number of immigrants of any type from coming into the U.S., a hypocritical betrayal of the ideals this country claims to hold and a core Trump principle. We should continue to be outraged and resist the Trump Administration’s immigration policy.

Increasing the number of refugees the U.S. is willing to accept to, say, the level set in the last year of the Obama Administration (110,000), or even higher, would not even come close to solving the humanitarian crisis, but that doesn’t mean it would be insignificant to those families seeking safe harbor after being forced from their homes. It would mean a new start for more families, which matters.

Also important is that it would signal to the rest of the world – especially countries like Bangladesh, who are struggling with development challenges and a changing climate while hosting large numbers of refugees – that the U.S. is invested in finding solutions to this crisis and protecting people impacted by it. Lowering the ceiling by so much when millions of people are fleeing their homes shows a profound disinterest and lack of care by this Administration for the humanitarian crisis and the other countries struggling to address it. Again, this is hardly unexpected, but we should not let our lack of surprise diminish our outrage. Refugees should be welcome here.


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