Trump Administration Considers Drastic Cut in Refugee Resettlement
Washington, D.C.—In response to reports that the Trump Administration is considering reducing the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 25,000 for fiscal year 2019, a historic low, Matthew G. Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, issued the following statement:
The proposal to gut U.S. refugee resettlement is both short-sighted and harmful to this country’s strategic interests. This extreme reduction would hurt U.S. allies and U.S. national security. A strong U.S. resettlement level would not only save lives, it also would support the stability of fragile states that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees.
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 national security officials, who 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 those being hosted in front line states. 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.