Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Donald Trump wants to cap the number of refugees allowed in the United States at 45,000, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed Congress on Wednesday. That is even fewer than the 50,000 many administration officials expected and less than half of the 110,000 that President Obama recommended for 2017.
According to a report in the New York Times, Trump administration officials like Stephen Miller wanted the number of refugees limited to no more than 15,000.
This announcement comes on the heels of the release of the latest version of the Muslim ban, which takes Sudan off the original list, adds North Korea and Chad, and also aims to impose harsher vetting and screening procedures.
Immigration activists quickly condemned the decision. “We are abandoning desperate people in life-or-death situations, including children with medical emergencies, U.S. wartime allies, and survivors of torture,” Betsy Fisher of the International Refugee Assistance Project told AlterNet in a phone interview, noting that resettlement is an option of last resort.
“We’re at the world’s most significant refugee crisis, at least since World War II,” Fisher continued, “and refugees overwhelmingly are stuck in limbo without access to any kind of permanent solution where they can live in safety, where they can go to school and where they can get jobs and where their kids can go to school.”
Aside from those humanitarian appeals, there are also national security and foreign policy reasons for supporting resettlement.
As Fisher points out, the United States “[relies] on countries like Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey to combat the Islamic state, to provide stable places where we operate military bases… Resettling people from those countries demonstrates that we understand the economic and financial pressures that they’re under is a result of the conflict in their region and that we’re willing to stand by them by providing a long-term solution for some of the most vulnerable people that they’re hosting.”
Congress has a few days to provide feedback to Trump’s request, but the president has the final say. If Trump’s eagerness to pass multiple versions of the ban are any indication, he’s unlikely to change his mind. While there’s no specific legislation in the works advocates like Fisher are still recommending that people call Congress to express their disappointment, and in general to keep an eye out for future guidance on how to respond once the specifics of the new Muslim ban vetting processes are announced.
Meanwhile, as the AP reported, the Pope encouraged supporters to welcome refugees: “Brothers, don’t be afraid of sharing the journey. Don’t be afraid of sharing hope,” he told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
Our president remains unmoved.
Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.