New York, NY, November 14, 2017 — Six weeks ago, the Trump administration set an historically low refugee admissions level of 45,000 in 2018—the lowest in history, and at a time of unprecedented global need.
Today, The International Rescue Committee (IRC) registers alarm at the dramatic reduction in arrivals. In the first month of the FY2018, 1,247 refugees arrived, compared to 9,945 refugees this time last year. At this pace, the United States would only admit around 15,000 refugees this year. This projection would represent a 72% drop from arrivals in FY17, and 82% in FY16.
“As feared, the administration is ceding its leadership at the expense of the most vulnerable, at the expense of families hoping to be reunited, at the expense of young children seeking a future free from violence” said Jennifer Sime, SVP, U.S. Programs. “Furthermore, the horizon now appears dim for the robust program needed to save these lives. If this moment in time is a test of character and courage, then the U.S. is failing.”
The administration has introduced a host of policy and operational changes over the last month that amount to a slow smothering of the refugee admissions program. These include:
- The abrupt end to the CAM program further which undermines family unity putting many young children – separated from parents lawfully in the U.S. – at severe risk of violence, trafficking, rape, or death. We estimate nearly 2,700 vulnerable individuals were spared this horror last year through CAM and its parole program;
- An extension of the travel ban by 90 days on certain nationalities will have dire impacts on some of the most vulnerable populations, with 44% of the cases in FY17coming from these countries; and
- This extended ban has a domino effect, far beyond 90 days: processing teams will have to go back to refugees to collect more information and re-request checks which already take up to 200 days to clear. We expect extreme delays to compound, with particularly serious risk for urgent medical cases;
- The indefinite suspension of arrivals through the “follow-to-join” program for families, impacting about 900 family reunification DHS-approved cases. This will result in prolonged separation of already-arrived refugees from spouses and children. There are hundreds more pending approval who will be similarly impacted. See two Boise refugees story here;
- New vetting requirements will set thousands of refugees back in their processes by months or years, including around 500 refugees who have already been fully vetted and cleared for admission - just pending a travel date - and nearly 30,000 refugees already approved but awaiting final clearance.
Taken together, these policy changes amount to mountains of bureaucratic red tape that won’t make Americans safer, but that will disrupt, delay or steal away safety for thousands of the world’s most vulnerable.
As a humanitarian organization, the IRC stands firmly against these coordinated moves to systematically break down refugee resettlement, and America’s reputation as a global humanitarian role model. The International Rescue Committee pledges to remain vigilant in ensuring the Administration meets its meager commitment of 45,000.