Home Malta Winds Trump administration plans to slash number of refugees for U.S. resettlement

Trump administration plans to slash number of refugees for U.S. resettlement

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The Trump
administration said on Thursday it plans to allow only 18,000 refugees to
resettle in the United States in the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest number in the
history of the modern refugee program.

In a move
immediately decried by immigrant advocates as an affront to the nation’s
humanitarian commitments, the administration said it had to shift focus to
processing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum claims, most of which
are filed by migrants from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The current
burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again
possible to resettle large number of refugees,” the State Department said in a
statement.

At the same
time, President Donald Trump issued an executive order saying his
administration would seek the approval of state and local governments to
resettle refugees in their communities, in a shift for a federally directed
program.

Trump has
made cutting immigration a centerpiece of his presidency. One of his first acts
after assuming office in January 2017 was to issue an order capping the maximum
number of refugees that year at 50,000, less than half the number former
President Barack Obama had set a few months earlier.

The proposed
new number includes specific carve-outs for U.S. national security and foreign
policy interests, a senior administration official told reporters.

Of the
proposed 18,000 spots, 4,000 would be reserved for Iraqis, 5,000 for those
fleeing religious persecution and 1,500 for people from the Northern Triangle
countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. That leaves 7,500, or roughly
40%, for all others.

When reports
began circulating about plans to dramatically cut resettlement, the
administration faced public criticism from evangelical leaders who said an
agenda supporting religious freedom around the world should go hand in hand
with protection for persecuted refugees.

A senior
administration official discussing the move on Thursday said that the specific
allocation for religious minorities would be an improvement over previous years
where broad allocations were made per region.

DWINDLING
PROGRAM

The refugee
cap was whittled down to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 for 2019, over the
objections of senior officials in the Department of Defense, who view the
program as crucial to rewarding and building allies in U.S. military campaigns
oversees.

Under U.S.
law, the president must consult Congress before finalizing the annual number of
refugees it plans to accept but the determination is ultimately set by the
White House.

The
reduction comes at a time when there are nearly 71 million displaced people
around the world, many of them refugees who have been waiting years in limbo
for a chance at resettlement.

Beneficiaries
of the U.S. program are meant to include people whose lives are in danger for
assisting the U.S. military, orphaned children, and victims of female genital
mutilation as well as many other fleeing civil strife and war.

Tens of
thousands of refugees are in the pipeline for arrival to the United States,
many with applications far along in the approval and vetting process. But a
drastic reduction in the overall numbers, as well as the allotments for
particular groups, could mean many of them will likely miss the chance to come
to the country in the 2020 fiscal year.

The senior
administration official said refugee arrivals, which had been temporarily
suspended pending the release of the new resettlement numbers, should resume on
October 22. While a short suspension is typical, the weeks-long halt has left
many refugees who had already booked their flights stranded.

With the
focus on the influx of migrants at the southern border, the administration has
signed a series of bilateral deals in recent weeks that seek to push asylum
seekers from Central America back to the region to apply for refuge in
neighboring countries instead of in the United States.

Kevin
McAleenan, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a
statement the current refugee proposal – with nearly 10% of slots reserved for
the northern triangle countries – offers people from El Salvador, Guatemala,
and Honduras “the opportunity to seek refugee status close to home, rather than
embark on a dangerous and often futile journey.”

LOCAL SAY

The
President’s companion executive order also potentially limits the places where
those that are accepted can be resettled.

In the order,
he said refugees should only be placed where state and local governments agree
to receive them.

“State and
local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they
may or may not have available,” the order said, “which maximizes the likelihood
refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term
dependence on public assistance.”

The
administration said refugee resettlement was a drain on government resources
but immigration experts said new arrivals, who come with a legal status, often
quickly fill jobs and contribute to local tax revenues.

Mark Hetfield, chief executive of Jewish non-profit refugee assistance organization HIAS said the executive order was an attempt by Trump to “allow governors and mayors to imitate his own refugee ban, state by state and town by town.”

source: reuters

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