Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First said today that the Trump Administration’s decision to slam the door on tens of thousands of vulnerable individuals is a shameful abdication of America’s responsibility to protect refugees in what has become the greatest refugee crisis in recorded history. As of today the U.S. refugee resettlement program has resettled 50,000 refugees, hitting the cap set by the administration in its executive order and the lowest number ever set by the executive branch. This, paired with a legally-suspect interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decision on the administration’s refugee ban, means that tens of thousands of individuals will be stranded in limbo, often in dangerous situations.
“The United States has always been a beacon for refugees, but today the Trump Administration’s cruel and disgraceful policy has made a mockery of that tradition,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “This decision sends a dangerous signal to other countries that protecting vulnerable individuals should no longer be a priority.”
Under the Supreme Court order, refugee applicants who have a “bona fide relationship to a U.S. person or entity” cannot be barred entry to U.S. refugee resettlement, despite the 50,000 cap reached today. The majority of refugees referred for and approved for U.S. resettlement already have family in the United States and many also have ties to U.S.-based voluntary resettlement agencies, faith-based groups, and other communities that have committed to co-sponsor refugees, as well as U.S.-based attorneys or legal assistance organizations. Many Iraqis and their families who served the U.S. military, government, contractors, NGOs, and media, and are now in danger due to that service. Congress gave these Iraqis direct access to U.S. resettlement program through the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act because of their relationships with the U.S. military and other U.S. entities. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been waiting for years already to be resettled, in dangerous situations.
Despite these relationships, the Trump Administration has misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling to exclude most of the 26,000 refugees in the resettlement pipeline that have already been fully vetted—and are now left stranded.
Human Rights First notes that certain groups of refugees face increased risk of violence and persecution as they await resettlement, including LGBT refugees who often face continued persecution in their country of first asylum. For these refugees, their connections to U.S. resettlement agencies serve as their only lifeline to escape danger.
The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that in 2016 there were over 65 million people displaced from their homes. Nearly half of them are children. On average, a person somewhere in the world is forced to flee their home every three seconds. And yet, refugees and asylum seekers are facing heightened threats under the Trump Administration, from executive orders to an emboldened detention and deportation force.
“By slamming the door on refugees, the Trump Administration has abdicated American leadership with policies that demonize refugees and abandon them to danger,” said Acer.