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Trump Administration’s Record Low Refugee Admissions Ceiling is Disgraceful

Trump’s attacks on the refugee program are cruel and steeped in racism.

By Suhra Nahib on October 13, 2020

On September 30, the Trump administration announced that they will admit 15,000 refugees into the United States in the 2021 fiscal year. This marks the lowest admission the administration has set so far, and the fourth time they have announced a record low admissions target.

This target is 3,000 less than the 18,000 that has been set by the administration for fiscal year 2020, which also expired on September 30. The Associated Press reported that despite setting that number, only 10,800 refugees were admitted into the country.

The proposal is now being reviewed by Congress, where there are strong objections to the cuts from lawmakers. But there is a possibility that they will be powerless to legislate any change.

“Given the dire situation of nearly 80 million displaced people around the world, the mission of American diplomacy is more important than ever,” the State Department announced. Yet the administration’s actions are wildly out of sync with this admission.

President Trump also vilified refugees at his campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota. He said that they are unwanted and a burden to the United States. In a speech loaded with racist rhetoric, in which he implied that ethnic Somali citizens are somehow not a part of “our country,” he also claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden wants to flood the country with “foreigners.”

The admission of refugees into the United States has been put on hold since March in response to the pandemic; the justification is that we need to protect American jobs as a fallout from the coronavirus. These assertions fly in the face of the State Department’s own findings that refugee admissions have no adverse effect on U.S. workers.

In the proposal being reviewed by Congress, Trump also proposed to deny admission to refugees from Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. The ostensible reasoning the administration has given for not allowing refugees from those countries was security concerns within the region; yet the choice of these three countries also aligns with Trump’s previous xenophobic policies and rhetoric.

The decision is not a surprise since Trump’s main goal since the beginning of this term has been to close the United States to immigrants and refugees; he began by restricting travel for people coming from Africa and Muslim countries, despite the fact that the United Nations has reported that 80 million people worldwide are currently displaced by oppression and war.

In announcing the new record low admissions ceiling, the State Department also falsely implied that the administration is making up for low refugee resettlement levels by admitting more asylum-seekers. This argument obscures the distinction between the refugee program and the asylum system, while papering over the fact that this administration’s policies have also been terrible for asylum-seekers.

The difference between an asylum-seeker and a refugee is significant and mostly procedural. Before entering or being accepted to enter the United States, every refugee goes through extensive security screening; otherwise, they cannot enter the country. Asylum seekers ask for asylum when they enter the country and their process goes through Citizenship and Immigration Services. In contrast to refugees who are resettled from abroad, asylum-seekers seek protection from persecution and submit their application while being present in the United States

UUSC continues to advocate for justice and dignity for people worldwide who are displaced from their homes. We call on the executive branch to robustly increase refugee admissions and restore full access to the nation’s asylum system for people at our border***

About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Photo Credit: iStock – prabhat kumar verma

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