As the Trump Administration’s refugee ban executive order hit the six-month mark, Human Rights First released a new analysis detailing the impacts of this policy on vulnerable individuals fleeing persecution and on U.S. national security interests and global leadership. The analysis, “U.S. Leadership Forsaken: Six Months of the Trump Refugee Bans,” reveals a sharp decline in U.S. resettlement of over 50 percent, an 80 percent cut in Syrian resettlement, resulting in damage to global resettlement capacity and substantial cuts in resettlement from countries that host many of the world’s refugees.
“Though President Trump’s executive orders have been tangled in the courts the past few months, there is no doubt as to the monumental impact of these policies on refugees who have fled persecution and are still facing grave risks,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “By abdicating our leadership on refugee resettlement, the United States has stranded tens of thousands of the most at-risk refugees, reduced support to key allies, and damaged its own national security interests. The Trump Administration has also stranded the many Iraqis who put their lives on the line to work with the U.S. military and other U.S. entities. The damage done over the last six months has been astounding.”
Six months ago, on January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order seeking to ban the resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, prioritize religious minorities, slash all refugee resettlement down to a historic low of 50,000, halt refugee resettlement for at least 120 days, and suspend entry of citizens of seven predominately Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—for at least 90 days. The order, issued just days after President Trump took office, followed a presidential campaign that promised a Muslim ban and vilified refugees as supposed security threats. After U.S. federal courts blocked parts of the order, the president signed a revised version on March 6, 2017. The order kept the provisions to suspend resettlement and cut the year’s target down by over half to 50,000.
Though parts of these orders have been blocked by courts during the last six months, substantial damage has already been done.
Resettlement is an important path to protection for a small portion of the world’s most at-risk refugees. It is also a critical tool for advancing U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, supporting front-line states and allies who are hosting the overwhelming majority of the world’s 22.5 million refugees.
Women and children, unaccompanied children from Africa, families with multiple children, LGBT persons targeted for violent attacks, survivors of rape and torture, women at risk of trafficking, and other vulnerable refugees have been particularly impacted, stranded in dangerous and difficult situations around the world, often with their resettlement cases frozen and delayed for years. In other cases they will simply never be referred for resettlement due to the cut in resettlement slots. The U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees has fallen by 80 percent, despite that fact that Syrian refugees constitute 40 percent of the global resettlement need.
Additionally, the executive order has impacted many interpreters and others who worked with the U.S. military and other U.S. entities in Iraq and have been targets of threats and violence due to their U.S. relationships. Former U.S. military leaders and officials have warned of the importance of bringing these allies to safety, both as a moral and national security imperative. Efforts to recruit interpreters and other support staff for operations in the future will be thwarted if the United States abandons those who put their lives on the line to work with the U.S. military and other U.S. entities.
The analysis also reveals the ripple-effect of the Trump Administration’s executive order on refugee resettlement globally. The administration’s policies have signaled a lack of U.S. leadership on refugees, and global resettlement capacity, which is likely to fall by at least 30 to 40 percent in 2017, will only continue to decline.
Human Rights First notes that accepting refugees and encouraging other countries to do so advances U.S. interests by supporting allies and other front-line refugee hosting nations whose stability is critical to U.S. foreign policy and security interests. Refugee resettlement has already been slashed from key frontline states, including global resettlement from Jordan by 64 percent and Lebanon by 35 percent, with U.S. resettlement from Turkey falling nearly 79 percent.
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