Amid a global displacement crisis, we must stand up for refugees

Refugees from DRC leave a transit camp in Uganda.
Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo leave a transit camp in Uganda for an eight-hour journey to another refugee settlement. DFID/Flickr.

BOSTON, September 27, 2019 – The Trump administration has set a cap of 18,000 for refugee admissions in the fiscal year that begins next Tuesday. This is a record low for the modern U.S. refugee resettlement program – and less than one-fifth the average over the program’s four-decade history.

As of Sept. 20, more than 29,800 refugees had been admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2019. Since trying and failing to ban refugees early in 2017, the Trump administration has rapidly reduced the cap from the 110,000 level set by former President Obama in his last year: first to 45,000, then to 30,000. In a move that is likely to further hinder resettlements, the White House also issued an executive order yesterday that requires state and local governments to consent to receiving most refugees.

As New England’s largest coalition advocating for immigrants and refugees, with multiple members working directly in refugee resettlement and integration support, MIRA strongly condemns this administration’s repeated assaults on the world’s most vulnerable people.

MIRA Executive Director Eva A. Millona made the following statement:

“We’re facing a global displacement crisis, with a record 70.8 million people forced to leave their homes, including 25.9 million refugees who’ve had to leave their own countries. The numbers are rising rapidly, driven by war, political repression, religious persecution, disasters, and climate change impacts.

“These people are fleeing desperate, horrific situations. Many have lost everything, and would face likely death if they returned home.

“The vast majority of refugees go only as far as the nearest safe country, so worldwide, it is mainly countries much poorer than the U.S. that are hosting the largest numbers of refugees. But the U.S. plays a crucial role. For decades, we have resettled more refugees than any other country, because we have the means and capacity to do it. And those refugees have become valued members of our communities.

“Under this administration, the U.S. has not only renounced its role as a global leader in refugee resettlement – it’s become openly hostile to refugees. The travel and refugee ban, extreme vetting, the ever-lower caps, all have sent the message: refugees are not welcome in America anymore.

“With its new cap of 18,000 and the requirement that local and state governments consent to refugee resettlement, the Trump administration is doubling down on its message of hate and fear. That is morally abhorrent and runs counter to America’s core values and traditions.

“The human impact of these polices is horrific. As it is, refugees wait many years, even decades, to be resettled, their lives confined to camps, and their families often separated. Now their suffering will be prolonged even more by policies driven entirely by hate and prejudice.

“And the damage will last for years, even if a new administration raises the cap again. Refugee resettlement programs across the U.S. and in Massachusetts have been decimated by the cuts in recent years. They have had to lay off staff, shut down offices and close programs. This capacity can’t be easily restored.

“We urge Congress to step up and support legislation to ensure that the U.S. truly does its part to meet the urgent global need for refugee resettlement. And we urge political leaders in Massachusetts and across the nation to step up and demand that the Trump administration raise the FY2020 cap, and to speak out in defense of refugees. This is a test of our collective moral character.”