Reports have emerged that the Trump administration was considering lowering the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to zero. Many have pointed out this would effectively eliminate the country’s refugee resettlement program altogether, according to Politico.
- Last year, only 22,491 refugees were admitted, the lowest number since 1980 when the U.S. officially established the refugee admissions program.
- Back in 2017, the ceiling was 110,000, set by former President Barack Obama before Donald Trump took office.
- Even in the year following the Sept. 11 attacks, about 27,000 refugees were admitted (2002).
- According to the Pew Research Center, up until 2017, the U.S. settled more refugees than any other country.
- In 2018, Canada, a country with a population slightly smaller than California’s, formally resettled the most refugees worldwide.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement site still states, “U.S. policy allows refugees of special humanitarian concern entrance into our country, reflecting our core values and our tradition of being a safe haven for the oppressed.” But the latest rumors from within the Trump administration have thrown this core value into question, even for religious groups that have traditionally worked as partners with the federal government to serve refugees once they arrive in the United States.
“Setting the U.S. refugee ceiling at zero would be an egregious assault on fundamental American values. And quite frankly, the humanitarian implications of this decision would be enough to nullify our global reputation as leaders of the free world,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine groups that works with the U.S. government to resettle refugees, in a statement.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, signed by more than 40 faith groups, organizations implored Pompeo to increase rather than decrease the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. They wrote, “These figures represent a dangerous aberration from U.S. historic commitments to the persecuted, placing lives at risk and drastically reducing our ability to protect religious freedom.”
Melanie Nezer, vice president of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish nonprofit that works with refugees, said in a statement, “Should the administration decide that the U.S. will no longer resettle refugees, it will be a full abdication of our role as the world’s humanitarian leader in refugee protection — a role the U.S. has held since World War II.”