Fears US refugee intake could plunge further
Refugee advocates and Democratic Party politicians in the US fear the nation’s humanitarian intake could drop even further.
An average of 95,000 refugees have been admitted to the US annually since the Refugee Act of 1980 was adopted. Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H Bush set the highest cap for refugees, at 140,000 and 142,000, the letter said.
The Trump administration last year set the lowest ceiling ever for refugees allowed to resettle in the US, limiting the number to 45,000 – and then admitted even fewer.
Democratic senators this week urged President Donald Trump to ensure the US continued to accept refugees after it was revealed the administration is considering imposing unprecedented restrictions on the number of refugees allowed in the US.
A letter obtained by NBC News, shows the 10 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about possible damage to America’s diplomatic clout and strategic interests around the world from further reductions in the US’ refugee program.
The letter says that by taking in refugees, the US has shown moral leadership, set an example for other Western countries and bolstered ties with allies and partners facing humanitarian crises.
“Refugee resettlement helps foster regional stability, assists close allies such as Jordan, and is a diplomatic tool for securing greater humanitarian engagement from other wealthy nations. Refugee resettlement has proven to be an important tool in our foreign policy toolkit,” the letter says.
An internal debate is raging inside the Trump administration about the cap for refugee admissions for the next fiscal year, with civil servants at the State Department and military officers at the Pentagon pitted against political appointees who favor drastically curtailing the number of refugees permitted into the country.
President Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller has argued refugees represent a potential security threat and an economic burden.
Democrats in Congress and humanitarian organisations say cutting back on refugees, saying it jeopardizes relations with governments such as Jordan or Bangladesh that are overwhelmed by civilians pushed out of their home countries by war and violent extremism.
They argue that administration officials could find the manpower needed to handle refugee cases if they had the political will and that the White House has overstated the security threat posed by refugees.
Refugee advocates fear not only will thousands of refugees remain stuck in overseas camps but the architecture of the US’ refugee settlement system will be torn down.
Some agencies fear the Trump administration could put the new cap at 25,000, with perhaps only half that number actually entering the country because of bureaucratic delays and other factors.
This year’s figure was set at 45,000 but less than half that number have been admitted as the end of the US fiscal year approaches on September 30.
Demand for refugee resettlement has never been greater, as the world experiences its worst refugee crisis since ever.
An estimated 68 million people are displaced, 25.4 million of them outside their home countries, because of war, genocide, persecution, or natural disaster, according to the United Nations.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist