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Refugee red tape

Why the Trump travel ban isn’t really over

The Trump travel ban officially expired on Oct 24, but new vetting measures threaten the safety and stability of those still seeking refuge in the U.S.

The Trump travel ban isn’t over. Arbitrary new vetting procedures allow President Trump to extend the ban for 90 days for refugees from 11 countries. These measures will severely hurt refugees, many of whom are in dangerous and life-threatening situations, and add months or years to the most urgent cases.

We’re already in the middle of some of the worst refugee crises in the world, with millions displaced and seeking safety. This year, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh, escaping continued violence and persecution in Myanmar.

“With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya – this moment is a test of the world’s humanity, moral leadership, and ability to learn from the horrors of the past,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president, US Programs, International Rescue Committee (IRC).

These new restrictions might be understandable if they actually improved national security. But they don’t. They’re just bureaucratic red tape, and they’re as close to a continuation of the travel ban as this administration could muster.

According to Reuters, these new processes will “determine what additional safeguards, if any, were necessary to ensure that the admission of refugees from these countries of concern does not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.” Refugees will need to provide addresses, phone numbers and email addresses over the past decade for themselves and potentially their family members.

Syrian father and daughter embrace at a Seattle airport as their family is reunited

The Bazara family from Aleppo, Syria were reunited at Sea-Tac International Airport on Feb 9 after three family members were banned from entering due to President Trump's executive order.

Photo: Nick Hall/IRC

Meanwhile, the U.S. already has one of the most thorough refugee vetting processes in the world. Every refugee is hand selected for resettlement by the Department of Homeland Security and screened by a number of agencies in process that can last over two years. Of the more than 3 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1980, not a single refugee has committed a lethal terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

These new screening restrictions will also hurt our local communities. Refugees in the IRC’s resettlement program get jobs, pay taxes, buy homes and start businesses. In fact, refugees are 50% more likely to become business owners than U.S.-born citizens. Those who enter the country between the ages of 18 and 45 also pay on average $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over a 20-year period.

This recent move by the Trump Administration is just one among a cruel and dangerous trend. Trump has continuously thwarted refugees’ attempts to flee violence and conflict. He has already slashed the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. this year to 45,000 – the lowest number in decades. The 120-Day refugee travel ban and cancellation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee program also threaten to rip families apart and cancel the dreams of people who want to provide a better life for themselves and their children.

At the IRC, we fear for the safety of refugees — especially women and children — who remain in dire situations, have urgent medical issues that can only be addressed here, and are victims of rape or torture. These new restrictions undermine every value that the U.S. refugee resettlement program was created to defend.

This moment is a test of the world’s humanity, moral leadership, and ability to learn from the horrors of the past. We all have to decide whether we want to stay quiet, or stand up for those values.