President Trump is considering essentially shutting down our country’s refugee program. It’s been reported that the administration is seeking to lower the number of refugees we take into zero.
Refugee resettlement is a crucial aspect of our obligations under international law. Historically, the United States has resettled more refugees than any other country, by total number alone — 3 million since 1980, according to Pew.
Since Trump took office, that number has fallen dramatically. While Obama resettled 97,000 refugees in 2016, Trump resettled just 33,000 in 2017, and only 23,000 in 2018. Canada, despite having one-tenth of our population, resettled more people than us last year — 28,000 in 2018. When looking at our rates of resettlement per capita, we fare much worse: We resettled 70 people per million residents in 2018, compared to 756 for Canada, 510 for Australia, and 493 for Sweden.
We are systematically failing global refugees and have been doing so for decades. But under Trump, that failure has grown more pronounced. The president’s monomaniacal focus on stopping immigration writ large has once again fallen on the backs of asylum-seekers, hurting the very people we and all other countries have an obligation to protect and shelter.
The travel ban, the border wall, metering, Remain in Mexico, and last week’s announcement that refugees transiting through third countries will be barred from seeking asylum all directly harm Central American fleeing gang violence and drought, Christians fleeing persecution in the Middle East, Syrians fleeing bombs, and many, many others.
RAICES has played an active role in refugee resettlement in this country. Since 2017, RAICES has helped resettle 400 people in San Antonio alone — 65 in 2017, 156 in 2018, and 179 in 2019 thus far. About half of our clients were female — 190, or 47.5%. This resettlement involves finding housing, schools, jobs, language classes, and more for our clients. It’s the way that we integrate people into our communities — the very aspect of immigration conservatives claim to want so much.
RAICES calls on Congress to do everything in its power to end the administration’s attacks on asylum seekers and increase our refugee resettlement rates, even above historic norms. If we can’t accept refugees under relatively normal conditions today, we will have no chance of doing so when the climate crisis worsens — and that is what is required of us as the richest nation on the planet. We have to get this right, now. Congress has to act.