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Changing Rules On Refugees

A migrant from Iraq kisses his wife as they wait to board a ship at the port of Mytilene, to take them to Athens on September 24.
A migrant from Iraq kisses his wife as they wait to board a ship at the port of Mytilene, to take them to Athens on September 24.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration would limit refugee resettlement admissions to 30,000 people in the coming year. This represents the lowest refugee ceiling since the 1980s and about a third less than the 45,000 admitted last year. The new policy “further cut[s] an already drastically scaled-back program that offers protection to foreigners fleeing violence and persecution,” according to Julie Hirschfeld Davis at The New York Times.

Pompeo explained his decision this way, from the same article:

Mr. Pompeo said refugees had to be weighed against a backlog of 800,000 asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision by immigration authorities about whether they qualify as in need of protection under United States law and will be granted status to remain.

But he vastly overstated the numbers, while making a linkage between two groups of immigrants that are not the same and are processed differently. As of the end of June, the Department of Homeland Security reported just under 320,000 people who had claimed asylum — meaning they had passed an interview conducted to verify that they met the “credible fear” threshold to be considered — and were awaiting a decision from the department about whether they could stay.

About 730,000 additional immigrants were waiting for their cases to be resolved by immigration courts, according to the Justice Department, including people who had asked for asylum after being apprehended. But that number also included people in deportation or other immigration proceedings. Those are not all “humanitarian protection cases,” as Mr. Pompeo described them; some may never be granted asylum and some will be removed from the United States.

President Trump also addressed refugee policy on Tuesday in his speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 25, 2018

The president’s move to limit refugee resettlement isn’t just about the cap. There are fewer government officers available to interview and process applications, delaying the entry of refugees.

From The Intercept:

The institutional slow-down is just one element of Trump’s multipronged overhaul of the system. A closer look at refugee arrival data suggests the administration is also driving the program toward specific ethnic and demographic trends. Last month, the Refugee Council USA, an umbrella organization of resettlement programs contracted to work with the State Department, issued a damning report card on the administration’s performance in the first 10 months of the fiscal year. The report highlighted the disparity in nations of origin: As of July, the U.S. had settled fewer than a third of the number of Middle Eastern refugees expected, and barely half of those expected from Africa. In contrast, the country has welcomed roughly 75 percent of expected East Asian refugees, and all but fulfilled its projected number for Europeans.

Who’s behind this refugee policy? What is the administration’s justification for it?

Show produced by Lindsay Foster Thomas, text by Gabrielle Healy.


Priscilla Alvarez, Assistant editor, The Atlantic; @priscialva

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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