Trump administration slashes refugee cap to just 18,000; experts call it 'global race to bottom', 'sickening'
The current Republican administration has been making alarming cuts in refugee intakes for America ever since it came to power. The Supreme Court's recent verdict has made it even easier for it.
The Donald Trump administration on September 26 decided to reduce the US refugee program by almost half, thereby putting the country’s reputation as accommodator of persecuted refugees from most parts of the world under question. According to a report in the New York Times, the administration said it would accept 18,000 refugees in the next one year, which is 12,000 less than the current limit of 30,000. In 2016, when Barack Obama was in his last year at the Oval Office, the limit was 110,000 and according to one report, the administration is eyeing bringing it down to zero in the days to come. Before Trump took office, the US accepted an average of 95,000 refugees yearly since its resettlement program started in 1980.
The NYT report said the administration is planning to reserve many of the available 18,000 refugee slots for those from Iraq who have worked with the American military; some persecuted ones from Central America and small groups of religious minorities and persecuted people, the State Department added.
The decision to reduce the refugee cap is part of a broader campaign led by White House adviser Stephen Miller, who is also the brain behind Trump’s tough immigration agenda, to slash the number of immigrants -- both legal and unauthorized -- from flowing into the US.
The Trump administration also found an ally in the judiciary when the Supreme Court earlier this month allowed the Trump administration to execute a new law that would curtail applications for asylum by immigrants at the US-Mexico border, something the Republican president has focused on from the beginning.
The slash in refugee count and the apex court’s decision are set to make it extremely challenging for vulnerable people to enter the US.
Elizabeth Foydel, deputy policy director with the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York, felt it is a “global race to the bottom” for the US. “The US is a global leader in resettlement, and other countries are taking their cues from us. It’s not like others are going to step in if the US reduces resettlement. In fact, it can be a global race to the bottom. And that can cause a lot of instability,” she was quoted as saying by PRI.
State Dept wants to 'alleviate current burdens on immigration system'
The State Department felt the current burdens on the country’s immigration system must be alleviated before resettling a large number of refugees. “The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large number of refugees. Prioritizing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in our country is simply a matter of fairness and common sense,” it said in a press release. Critics, however, are not convinced. They feel the situation that prevails at the southwestern border should not be used as an excuse for abandoning refugees from other parts of the world.
It's sickening, says ACLU advocate
Manar Waheed, Senior Legislative and Advocacy Counsel at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the decision taken by the Trump administration as “sickening”. In a piece penned for ACLU, she wrote: “This sickening announcement is consistent with Trump’s attacks on refugees, Muslims, and immigrants across the board — particularly those who are Brown or Black.”
The administration had reduced the cap to 45,000 from 1,10,000 in 2018; to 30,000 in 2019 and now to 18,000 in 2020. In 2018, only 62 Syrians were allowed to enter the US as refugees, marking a staggering 99.05 per cent drop from 2017, Waheed wrote.
“The implementation of these discriminatory policies and processes are as revolting as Trump’s rhetoric and attacks on people of color and other marginalized communities,” Waheed said, adding that this might be Trump’s version of the US but not theirs. She said the fight will be on till the US reflects the humanity, diversity, and justice for which America strives.