United States to Admit All-Time Low Number of Refugees in 2018

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Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned the Trump Administration for setting the refugee admissions goal at an all-time low number for fiscal year 2018. After consultation with Congress today, it has been reported that the administration will set a refugee cap of 45,000, an unconscionably low number as the world faces the greatest refugee crisis ever known. 

“The president has repeatedly claimed that we cannot keep this country safe and admit refugees, that protecting refugees comes at the expense of Americans’ economic prosperity, that our nation’s long-term interests are best served by ignoring the suffering of the vulnerable. These are simply lies,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “The reality is that our nation’s safety, economy, and reputation as a global leader will thrive because of—not in spite of—increased refugee resettlement.”

The United States’ refugee vetting procedures—which include extensive and comprehensive interviews as well as multiple rounds of security vetting with a wide array of U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies—are widely recognized as the most stringent in the world by former U.S. military leaders and former U.S. national security officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations. Former CIA directors, national security advisors, and secretaries of defense, state, and homeland security have explained that resettling refugees advances U.S. national security interests, and that halting refugee resettlement harms U.S. national security.   

The administration has sought to justify the decrease in refugee resettlement by arguing that the United States has a backlog of asylum cases. While Human Rights First has documented the negative impact the backlog has on asylum seekers, the organization notes that even if one combined the number of asylum seekers held up in the backlog and the number of refugees proposed today by the administration, the United States’ overall refugee acceptance per capita would pale in comparison to the numbers of those being hosted in front-line states and other smaller developed countries, including Sweden and Luxembourg. Turkey hosts 35 refugees per 1,000 individuals, Jordan hosts 89 refugees per 1,000, and Lebanon hosts 173 per 1,000. If the United States were to admit only 50,000 refugees, the rate in the United States would only be less than 1 per 1,000, even when including the asylum office backlog, a dismally small number given the worldwide need. 

“Today’s decision signals, yet again, an abdication of U.S. leadership that will reverberate around the world, leaving the most vulnerable refugees at risk. When the United States fails to support its allies and front-line states who are hosting the vast majority of refugees, it hurts our national interests. Setting such a low refugee cap is short-cited and misguided,” noted Quigley.

Human Rights First recently released a new analysis detailing the impacts of this policy on vulnerable individuals fleeing persecution and on U.S. national security interests and global leadership. The analysis shows that in the six months since President Trump’s executive order, there was a sharp decrease in the number of Muslim refugees resettled, a reflection of the president’s campaign promises. Setting the refugee cap at such an arbitrarily low number will only exacerbate the suffering of Syrian and Muslim refugees.

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2016 there were over 65 million people displaced from their homes. Nearly half of them are children. On average, a person somewhere in the world is forced to flee their home every three seconds. While ten percent of the world’s 21 million refugees are estimated to need resettlement, less than one percent have access to resettlement. This drastic reduction in U.S. resettlement willencourage other countries to do likewise, leaving front-line countries, such as Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, which host nearly five million Syrian refugees alone, struggling to host all of them. These and other developing countries already host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees, and their stability is critical to U.S. foreign policy and security interests.  

“We need not sacrifice our values for our national security. The most powerful country on earth should not be afraid of the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Quigley.

For more information or to speak with Quigley, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.

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