Americans Owe it to Refugees: We Must Save Resettlement

September 26, 2018

Earlier this month, the Trump administration made a devastating announcement that it would only resettle 30,000 refugees next fiscal year – the lowest level in U.S. history. This number comes as we find ourselves in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in history, with more than 25 million refugees worldwide, over half of which are children.

This development is extremely concerning, particularly in light of what similarly took place last year, when the administration issued a Muslim travel ban first blocking refugee resettlement entirely and then later setting (what was then) a historically low refugee admissions goal of 45,000. Less than half that number actually arrived, and the impact was disastrous.

Refugees who wished for a chance to live in safety and security after fleeing danger in their home country were told they were unwelcome. Families hoping to be reunited found themselves torn apart across a vast ocean. Patients who yearned to seek medical treatment were denied relief. The circumstances led to anger, frustration, and a feeling of utter helplessness for the refugees and resettlement agencies assisting them.

Unfortunately, with this new announcement, things will only get worse. Fewer refugees will arrive at our borders and more will continue to remain in unstable refugee camps or in risky war zones, where each day could be their last. Little by little, the Trump administration is effectively dismantling the U.S. refugee resettlement program and abandoning the world’s most vulnerable people.

This is not who America aspires to be. Our country has a proud history of serving as a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. For nearly four decades, the average refugee admissions goal has been 95,000. Protecting vulnerable populations is not a zero-sum game; we can and should protect refugees and others fleeing violence or persecution. Refugee resettlement facilitates U.S. diplomatic, national security, and foreign policy interests.

As people who care about refugees, we must make our voices heard and tell both the White House and Congress that 30,000 is inexcusable and that we must set a refugee admissions goal of at least 75,000. The White House is required under U.S. law to consult with Congress prior to setting the annual refugee admissions number. This has not happened yet, which means Congress can and must weigh in today.

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