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Making America Cruel Again — For Immigrants

On September 26th, President Donald Trump’s White House announced that, in 2020, refugee admissions to the United States will be limited to 18,000, drastically lower than any yearly ceiling over the past 40 years. Along with that announcement, the White House released a separate executive order intended to upend many years of precedent by giving state and local authorities the power to deny refugees resettlement in their jurisdictions.

Nine days later, Trump issued another directive ordering that new immigrant visas be restricted to those who can afford unsubsidized health insurance coverage or are affluent enough to pay for their own health-care costs. Meanwhile, his administration was heading into the final days of a planned timetable to implement new restrictions that would make it harder for needy immigrants to get a green card and work legally to support themselves and their families. That plan has been thwarted, at least temporarily, by orders from judges in three different federal courts.

Those separate but related actions are the latest pages in another dark chapter in the Trump administration’s anti-immigration binge. Together, they steer the U.S. government onto an even more heartless course, setting policies that will not just harm people directly covered by the new provisions but will cause significant collateral damage.

The local option to prevent resettlement will stir up anti-immigrant groups and inflame the national immigration debate, making that issue and the country’s racial divides even more toxic than they already are. In addition to keeping many more desperate people out of this country, the refugee cutback will harm organizations that help refugees already here and destroy Washington’s ability to persuade other countries to deal with the worldwide tidal wave of refugees displaced by wars and other catastrophes.

The new green card rules, if they overcome court challenges and go into effect, will greatly expand the grounds for finding that an applicant might become a “public charge.” That will deny legal employment to many of the most vulnerable immigrants and lead others to forgo badly needed benefits to which they are legally entitled — a trend already evident before those rules even take effect. Similarly, the new requirement that immigrants be capable of paying for health insurance will not just penalize foreign nationals applying for visas, but in many cases keep family members already in the U.S., including children and spouses, from reuniting with loved ones seeking to join them.

These policies have one more thing in common: none of them has anything to do with illegal immigration.

Refugees hoping for resettlement in the United States are not only seeking to enter the country legally but doing so through the most rigorous and time-consuming of all procedures for getting a visa. Those already here who could be excluded from a state or locality under the new regulations are lawfully in the country, not part of an “invasion” (as Trump calls it) of undocumented immigrants who have crossed the border illegally. Immigrants applying for green cards or visa applicants subject to the health insurance requirement are within the law by definition.

The New Refugee Ban, Town By Town

The “local option” giving state and local governments the right to block the resettlement of newly admitted refugees in their territory has been the least noticed of these new initiatives so far. It has, however, the potential for far-reaching, troubling, even dangerous effects. If the plan survives the expected court challenges and resettlement organizations have to get written approval from state and local authorities before placing new arrivals in specific locations, that could mobilize anti-immigrant activists across the country to put pressure on local officials, intensifying the politicization of refugee issues and galvanizing ugly forces in this society.

The heads of two of the nine national organizations that administer the resettlement program for the State Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement have been blunt in their criticism of the local option policy. It “shocks the conscience,” the Reverend John McCullough, CEO and president of Church World Service, declared in a statement. “This proposal would embolden racist officials to deprive refugees of their rights under U.S. law. This proposal is a slippery slope that takes our country backward. The ugly history of institutionalized segregation comes to mind.”

In a similar vein, Mark Hetfield, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), described the order as “in effect, a state-by-state, city-by-city refugee ban, and it’s un-American and wrong. Is this the kind of America we want to live in? Where local towns can put up signs that say ‘No Refugees Allowed’ and the federal government will back that?”

Details are still vague on how the local option program would work. Trump’s order calls for the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to develop the lineaments of such a process within 90 days, so details may be forthcoming. On the essential points, though, its wording makes the order’s intent unequivocally clear.

A key passage states that resettlement agencies will have to get written permission from state and local authorities before placing any refugees in their jurisdiction; the burden, that is, will be on the agencies to get approval, not on local or state leaders to initiate an objection. In a curious provision, the document adds that the secretary of state “shall publicly release any written consents of States and localities to resettlement of refugees.” A decision to exclude refugees, however, can remain undisclosed.

Only President Trump and his advisers know whether the primary motive for such requirements was to make resettling refugees more politically fraught and potentially a more visible issue in the coming election season. But that is sure to be the result.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), is troubled by the prospect that the decisions of local authorities will only be publicized if they accept refugees, not if they refuse them — a twist that may tend to “stoke xenophobia,” she pointed out in an interview, and make it harder for communities to welcome refugees.

Matthew Soerens, who directs World Relief’s efforts to mobilize evangelical churches on refugee and immigration issues, voiced a similar concern. Mandating a public announcement when a jurisdiction decides to accept refugees will draw the attention of “people who maybe don’t want their state or local government receiving them,” Soerens said in an interview. Even if 70% of the people in a community support resettlement and only 30% object, “they can make an ugly political issue,” he added, possibly increasing the difficulty of bringing refugees into a community even when the authorities are in favor of resettling them. “We don’t want refugees to come into a situation where there’s been a big political circus about their arrival,” he added. Most residents may be welcoming, but “it only takes a few to make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

Church World Service, HIAS, LIRS, and World Relief are four of nine national resettlement agencies. Six of them are faith-based. All nine have strongly criticized the new refugee ceiling as cruel, contrary to religious teachings of love and compassion, and against American values. (“Trump Puts Out Lady Liberty’s Torch” was the headline over the Church World Service’s statement.)

Worldwide Refugees at a Record High, U.S. Relief at an Unprecedented Low

The unanimous criticism from those resettlement agencies reflects how deeply Trump’s latest decision will cut into future refugee relief efforts. The new ceiling of 18,000 represents less than one-fifth of the 95,000 yearly cap presidents have set, on average, since the present refugee law was enacted in 1980. Actual admissions, normally somewhat lower than the maximum allowed, are now guaranteed to fall far below the average annual rate over an even longer period dating back to the 1940s.

The number of Muslim refugees, in particular, has dropped in a stunning fashion since Donald Trump entered the White House, even though, as a recent study notes, four of the world’s five largest refugee crises affect Muslim populations. That report, compiled by the Refugee Council USA, highlights how startling the change was for the most deeply troubled countries between the last two fiscal years of Obama’s presidency, 2016 and 2017, and the first two full fiscal years of Trump’s, 2018 and 2019.

The report’s country-by-country figures show that refugee admissions from Iran dropped from 6,327 in 2016 and 2017 to 104 in 2018 and 2019. Admissions from Iraq — where the waiting list still includes thousands of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or military after the American invasion and occupation of that country — fell from 16,766 to 308, a 98% drop. For Somalia, the number went from 15,150 to 284; for Sudan, from 2,438 to 201; and for Syria, from 19,473 to 280. Altogether, the Refugee Council found that admissions of Muslim refugees had declined by 90% in the Trump era.

Hurting Refugees — And Those Who Help Them, Too

The cut in admissions doesn’t just harm refugees waiting to come to the United States but hurts those already here and the people who help them. Because the State Department gives the resettlement agencies a fixed amount of money for each individual they resettle, the sharp drop in admissions has meant deep cuts in their budgets. That, in turn, reduces their ability to help new arrivals fit into American society after their initial government-funded 90-day refugee benefits run out.

Since 2017, according to the Refugee Council study, the nine national agencies combined have closed 51 branch offices across the country. That means they can no longer help refugees in those communities find jobs or offer them language training or legal services, or assist them in enrolling children in school or obtaining public benefits they are lawfully entitled to.

If the rollercoaster keeps going downhill, says Krish Vignarajah of LIRS, it could destroy the network her organization has created in its 80-year history: “If we lose that infrastructure built over decades by faith communities, nonprofits, and local communities, that is going to take a very long time to replace.”

World Relief’s Soerens said his agency has closed seven offices since 2017, while halting refugee resettlement in several others, losing “really gifted, committed staff who have years and decades of experience.” When possible, World Relief and similar agencies have tried to close down branches in places where other resettlement agencies are still operating, but, of course, those agencies are now stretched to the limit as well.

Trump’s policies alsodamage the international response to the growing global refugee crisis. In sharp contradiction to the spirit of the 1980 Refugee Act, which states that “it is the policy of the United States to encourage all nations to provide assistance and resettlement opportunities to refugees to the fullest extent possible,” American influence under Trump has moved in exactly the opposite direction. Instead of providing moral leadership for international efforts to meet the crisis, his example has encouraged governments and political forces across the world that strongly resist more generous efforts. As a result, tens or hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees will be trapped in their suffering for years longer, waiting for relief that may never come.

Raising the “Public Charge” Barrier

Another recent Trump initiative will potentially mean new hardships for a different category of immigrants who, like resettled refugees, are in the U.S. legally: non-citizens seeking the right to legal employment who may, in some cases, be subject to deportation if they can’t work.

That group, which includes many who are related to, or share households with, U.S. citizens, will face new barriers under a revised “public charge” rule that was scheduled to take effect this month until it was delayed by judicial rulings in three federal district courts. In those orders, handed down just four days before the October 15th effective date, federal judges in New York and Washington state temporarily blocked the rule nationwide, while a more limited ruling in California stayed its implementation in that state as well as in Maine, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, which were plaintiffs in the same lawsuit.

The new rule is aimed at making it tougher for green-card applicants to show that they will not be dependent on public benefits. Its weight would fall entirely on those in the applicant pool who are already the most needy and vulnerable. Women, children, the ill, and the elderly will be disproportionately affected, as will immigrants from poorer countries (who are also more likely to belong to racial minorities). Within those already disadvantaged groups, the poorer and more vulnerable someone is, the more likely she is to suffer adverse consequences.

That non-citizens should be denied permanent residence if they are “deemed likely” to depend on government benefits is a long-standing provision in U.S. immigration law, not a Trump-era invention. For many years, though, the “public charge” label was applied only to those receiving cash assistance through welfare, Social Security disability payments, or government-funded long-term institutional care. Under the new rules, immigrants seeking a green card or temporary employment status would be penalized for using — or just being judged likely to use — a long list of other benefits including food stamps, most Medicaid services, and various housing assistance programs, which were not previously held to define the recipient as a public charge.

Limited use of one of those benefits would not automatically disqualify an applicant, but would count as a “heavily weighted negative factor.” Low income, defined as less than 125% of the federal poverty guideline, would be another “heavily weighted” negative. Health and age could also count against an applicant.

Practically speaking, someone lawfully here could be sent home not only for using public benefits but simply for being more than 61 years old or having “a medical condition that is likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization or that will interfere with the alien’s ability to provide care for himself or herself, to attend school, or to work.” Presumably, this means that someone legally in the U.S. who is blind or has some other physical disability would face a greater risk of deportation. Women would be at a significant disadvantage, an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute showed, because “they are less likely to be employed than men, generally live in larger households, and have lower incomes.”

A side effect of the new rules (noticeable since a draft was released more than a year ago) is that significant numbers of immigrants are now going without assistance to which they are legally entitled. Multiple studies have documented declining enrollments even in programs not covered in the new regulations or when benefits are going to the U.S.-born children of immigrants who are unquestionably eligible for them.

For example, the Agriculture Department’s special nutrition program for women, infants, and children, known as WIC, is explicitly excluded from the list of “benefits designated for consideration in public charge inadmissibility determinations.” But a recent Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet reports that WIC agencies in a number of states have experienced “enrollment drops that they attribute largely to fears about public charge.” Investigations by the Urban InstituteChildren’s Health Watch, and other organizations have found the same pattern in other programs.

A Last Thought

Taken as a whole, the latest Trump administration assaults on refugees and immigrants should shock the conscience — the words the Church World Service’s John McCullough used about the new local-option resettlement policy. Legally, they are not high crimes and misdemeanors as that phrase appears in the Constitution. In moral terms, though, it would not be an exaggeration to call them high crimes and misdemeanors against humanity. By any reasonable standard they are more morally repugnant and bring more suffering to more innocent people than any presidential phone call to Ukraine.

In Trumpian terms, think of it as MACA, or Making America Crueler Again — and again, and again. Closing the country’s doors to more refugees (particularly if they’re Muslim), encouraging bigots and xenophobes to mobilize to keep refugees out of their towns, making it harder for immigrants to stay and build new lives if they are old or poor or sick, raising a barrier of fear that keeps them away from food aid and health care they and their children need and have a right to — none of these are impeachable offenses. In a fairer and more humane country, perhaps they would be.


Arnold R. Isaacs, a journalist and TomDispatch regular based in Maryland, has written widely on refugee and immigration issues. He is the author of From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani and Afghan Americans in post-9/11 America and two books relating to the Vietnam War. His website is

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Arnold R. Isaacs

The Calculated Cruelty Of Trump’s War On Immigrants

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch.

“Make America Cruel Again.” That’s how journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Shipler has reformulated Donald Trump’s trademark slogan. Shipler’s version is particularly apt when you think about the president’s record over the last two years on refugee resettlement and other humanitarian-related immigration issues.

President Trump’s border-wall obsession and the political uproar over it have dominated the news, while the alleged dangers of illegal immigrants — whose numbers he wildly exaggerates — have dominated his rhetoric. But the way he’s altered immigration policy affects many more people than just the migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border who are at the center of the wall debate. Many of those currently or potentially harmed by his actions are notoutside the law, but are in the United States legally, some with permanent residence status and others on a temporary or provisional basis. Many more, including tens of thousands of refugees who would be eligible for resettlement, are seeking entry or lawful residence through normal immigration procedures, not trying to sneak into the country.

Among those lawfully here who have been affected by Trump’s policies are nearly three-quarters of a million “Dreamers.” Brought here illegally by their parents, they have qualified to remain under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Those young people have spent well over a year not knowing if they will lose that protection under the current administration, despite strong public support and bipartisan political approvalof the program’s premise that it would be inhumane and unfair to penalize young people because of their parents’ actions.

Another 250,000 people face possible deportation if the administration wins its legal battle to terminate their temporary protected status (TPS), which allows those who have been displaced by natural or manmade disasters in their countries to remain in the United States. If it weren’t for court rulingsblocking both the enforcement of a presidential order to end DACA and a series of directives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ending TPS for recipients from specific countries, a large majority of the one million people in those two categories would lose their legal status between now and September.

During the government shutdown, President Trump conditionally offered to extend temporary protection under DACA or TPS for another three years in return for support from congressional Democrats for his border wall. Whether any such reprieve will be part of an eventual legislative compromise on the wall remains to be seen, but even if it is, that will only further delay, not remove, the threat hanging over the lives of a million people. And the president’s switch raises a pointed question about his previous stance: if he now believes that letting dreamers and TPS recipients stay for another three years won’t endanger public safety or damage other national interests, why did he want to expel them in the first place?

A proposed change in a different set of immigration rules could take a heavy toll on still another group: lawful immigrants who are seeking the right to legal employment. As drafted by DHS, the new regulations would set much stiffer standards for the requirement that a green-card applicant be self-sufficient and not “likely to become a public charge” (that is, “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence”).

For many years that requirement was applied only to programs that extend cash assistance for income maintenance, such as welfare or Social Security disability payments. Under the proposed drastic expansion of those guidelines, immigrants could also be penalized for using food stamps, Medicaid, or various housing assistance programs.

The burden of those rules, as an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute points out, would fall most harshly on the most disadvantaged applicants. One probable outcome is that women would have a harder time “because they are less likely to be employed than men, generally live in larger households, and have lower incomes.”

Although those rule changes are not yet in effect, they have already led an unknown but significant number of low-income immigrants to forgo food stamps, Medicaid, or other benefits — assistance they are legally entitled to and badly need, but fear might jeopardize their chances for lawful permanent residence.

A Case Study in Cruelty

President Trump’s refugee policy offers perhaps the single best case study of how far he and his team have steered away from compassion. Using the law that lets the president set a ceiling for the admission of refugees, Trump has sharply reduced that annual cap, bringing it to by far the lowest level in 40 years.

That downward trend began only a week into Trump’s presidency when he issued an executive order reducing the ceiling for fiscal 2017 to 50,000 in place of the 110,000 cap originally set by the Obama administration. He then reduced the quota to 45,000 for 2018 and cut it again to 30,000 for 2019. The latest cap is lower by half than any previous one since the current refugee law took effect in 1980 — and actual arrivals have dropped even more sharply because of onerous and time-consuming new screening procedures for refugees.

In 2018, only 22,491 refugees were admitted to the country, fewer than half the number authorized. That is slightly more than one quarter of the refugees admitted during President Obama’s last year in office. It is also considerably lower than in any year since Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1981, even counting the two years after the 9/11 attacks when refugee admissions dropped sharply because of more intensive screening procedures.

Trump’s cuts came even as the need for humanitarian relief was growing globally. During his first year in office, according to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, the number of individuals “forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence” rose from an already staggering 65.6 million to a record 68.5 million. In both years, slightly more than half of those totals were children below the age of 18. Displaced people officially designated as “refugees” — defined as those driven from their own country — climbed from 22.5 million at the end of 2016 to 25.4 million a year later.

UNHCR has not released its 2018 figures yet, but other measurements indicate that the refugee crisis is still getting worse. In a June 2018 release, the agency projected that the number of people “in need of resettlement globally” in 2019 might be 17% higher than the previous year, clear evidence that the upward trend is continuing. Another figure in its annual reports offers a startling measure of the scale of human suffering around the world and how sharply it’s increasing: 28,300 people were forced to flee their homes every day in 2016, a number that jumped to 44,400 the next year.

Those numbers may seem abstract, but they represent a lot of human misery.

Ruben Chandrasekar, executive director of the International Rescue Committee’s two resettlement offices in Maryland, notes that the Trump administration’s cutbacks on refugee admissions only heighten the suffering of people who have already lost their homes and livelihoods. Tens of thousands of refugees could have started new lives in the United States, if past ceiling levels had been maintained. Now, they face an indefinite future of “protracted displacement,” as Chandrasekar put it in a recent conversation, either in refugee camps with no certainty of adequate food, clothing, or medicine, or as non-citizens in the countries to which they’ve fled and where they live in “precarious urban circumstances,” often unable to work or enroll their children in school.

In other words, Chandrasekar added, the U.S. government “is allowing people who would otherwise qualify for resettlement to live under conditions that could kill them.”

Hurting People Who Need Help — And the Helpers

Curtailing the flow of refugees from overseas has also led, by a kind of malevolent logic, to a significant decline in assistance to refugees already in the United States. That’s because the nonprofit agencies that administer the resettlement program receive a set amount of money from the State Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for each individual they are assigned to manage. As a result, when arrivals fall, government funding for those organizations — the two largest being the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the International Rescue Committee — automatically drops as well.

The funds those agencies get from private donors haven’t offset the shortfall in State Department payments. As a result, resources that help resettled refugees find jobs and housing, navigate the health, social service, and educational systems, and the like are shrinking or, in some places, disappearing.

In the most recent cutback, according to the International Rescue Committee’s Chandrasekar, the nine national resettlement agencies were instructed late last year to shutter 39 branch offices in communities across the country, only adding to the closings and staff layoffs of the previous two years. That doesn’t just harm refugees who are getting less service. It also harms the people who provide those services and must now do their emotionally draining work with ever fewer resources and ever more worries about growing caseloads and the possibility of being laid off themselves. In other words, Trump’s policies hurt both people who need help and those who help them, making America cruel indeed.

Fake Facts About Refugees

The Trump administration has offered two basic arguments for its refugee policies. Both are false.

The first is that refugees are potential terrorists. The title over Trump’s first directive on refugee resettlement explicitly proclaimed that rationale: “Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

Since then he and his associates have regularly sought to link refugees to terrorism, a claim not validated by either facts or logic. Refugees are more thoroughly screened than any other class of immigrants and plenty of research has shown that the vetting process, which usually lasts two to three years or longer, far from being too loose (as Trump administration officials have often suggested) has been strikingly effective in keeping out dangerous people.

Over more than four decades, not a single American has been killed on U.S. soil by someone who entered the country as a refugee. Of the million-plus refugees who arrived in the last 20 years, no more than a few dozen have been implicated in any kind of terrorism case, lethal or not. Almost none of those cases involved a violent act in this country.

There is no proven case of a terrorist sneaking into the country through the refugee resettlement process. Of the very few refugees who have been connected with terrorist crimes, many came to the United States as children or lived here for years before becoming involved in violent extremism, which means they wouldn’t have been kept out by any vetting procedure, however tight.

The argument that refugees are a drain on public funds and the national economy is also contradicted by the facts. A detailed 2017 report prepared (at the request of the White House) by the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that, from 2005 through 2014, refugees paid $63 billion more in taxes than they received in taxpayer-funded government assistance — a finding consistent, the authors noted, with comparable analyses of the costs and benefits associated with refugees and other immigrants. Department higher-ups refused to send that report to the White House. Instead, they submitted a much shorter paper that listed only the cost of refugee benefits with no mention of their tax payments and so made the case that Trump and his advisers wanted.

If the stated grounds for the administration’s actions are largely false, do such policy changes serve any valid national goal or legitimate principle?

The administration often makes the case that it is only upholding the rule of law. That is its primary justification, for example, for the effort to kick out several hundred thousand people who have been in the United States for years under the Temporary Protected Status rule. If the law says “temporary,” the government contends, that’s what it means: a status that lets people stay for some period of time but does not give them any right to remain when that interval ends.

Legally and logically, that is an unassailable proposition. Those who have gone to court to block the government’s plan are not contesting the law or the dictionary. The argument is about the facts on the ground and whether the situations in the countries involved are actually safe enough for their temporarily sheltered nationals to go home. As with any lawsuit, the courts that will rule on these cases are bound by the letter of the law. In the larger policy debate, however, there should be room to consider broader questions and ask whether the enforcement of a law is in conflict with other human values.

Even if conditions in El Salvador are now less dangerous, does that justify disrupting the lives that nearly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients have developed over years, even decades, in the United States? Life in Haiti may well be safer than it was nine years ago after a catastrophic earthquake left more than a million people homeless, but does that make it right to use U.S. law to force many Haitians who found shelter in this country to choose between keeping their families together or leaving U.S.-born children here to grow up in greater security than they would have in Haiti?

Zuzana Cepla, a policy and advocacy associate at the Washington-based National Immigration Forum, tells me that she can see the logic of changing the status of TPS recipients once protection is no longer necessary. But, she adds, that does not have to mean leaving several hundred thousand people this year (or even three years from now) with only bad options: deportation back to their home countries, leaving for another country, or going into the shadows and remaining in the United States without documentation. If the sole reason to expel immigrants is that the circumstances they fled 10 or 20 years ago have changed, she concludes, “The problem is in the program, not in the people.”

Cepla was speaking about one program, but her reasoning applies across the full spectrum of immigration issues in the Trump era. If the problem is the system, not the people, it won’t be solved by uprooting a million or more immigrants who have legally resided in the United States for years or closing the door on tens of thousands of refugees who would qualify for resettlement. The solution should be to fix the system, not punish the people.

Americans don’t need to keep shouting at each other about Trump’s border wall. They need to talk about how to reform the immigration system without needlessly damaging a great many human lives. That would be the logical and useful discussion to have. It would also be a good way to start making America decent again.

Arnold R. Isaacs, a journalist and TomDispatch regular based in Maryland, has written widely on refugee and immigration issues. He is the author of From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani and Afghan Americans in post-9/11 America and two books relating to the Vietnam War. His website is

IMAGE: A protestor holds a placard during a rally supporting refugees worldwide and in reaction to Trump’s travel ban, outside the U.S. embassy in Israel January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner