Refugee Admissions in US at Lowest in Decades

Following the recent series of attacks during Trump’s reign, the Trump administration has limited the number of refugees that can be admitted into the US – a figure that has dropped sharply since the 1980’s. The administration has reduced overseas staff that conducts clearance interviews for refugees and has reinforced the vetting process, especially for those coming from high-risk countries. If the stringent procedures continue, Migration Policy Institute has estimated that only 20,000 refugees would make it into the US this year, which is the lowest since the Refugee Act was enforced in 1980 for people fleeing persecution in their home countries.

The largest decline in the number of refugee admissions has been of Muslims. The State Department reported that in 2016, 38,900 Muslim refugees entered the US; the figure fell to 22,861 in 2017 and in 2018, so far, only 2,107 have been admitted. Trump’s administration has allowed a mere 45,000 refugees in total to be admitted into the US annually, which is less than half the number of refugees that were allowed to enter the  US when Obama was in power. Senior Vice President, Jennifer Sime, at International Rescue Committee stated:

“It’s death by a thousand papercuts. Little by little – until you get to the point where nobody is coming.”

Moreover, processing times would be slower since the government is executing new screening procedures. Before Trump came into power, the screening process took place only every two years. Trump has implemented executive orders to restrict the flow of refugees. In June 2017, the admissions came to a halt for 120 days followed by another 90-day halt for refugees from countries with high-risk of terrorism, as Trump states.

Refugees were screened and interviewed throughout several cities in the world, but the process has slowed down considerably. Refugees are now required to provide addresses and phone numbers that go back 10 years. There is an additional screening process for refugees from high-risk countries – further slowing down the process. Male refugees were the ones who had to go through the screening process; now females are also subjected to extreme vetting. The sharp decline in the admission of Muslim refugees came right after September 11 attacks. In 2002, the US suspended admissions of Muslim refugees and imposed rigorous security measures. The new immigration proposals have been challenged in court on the basis that they discriminate against Muslims.

The top five nationalities of Muslim refugees did not represent those from Muslim-majority countries. The top countries of origin of Muslim refugees include Somalia, Iraq, and Syria. The new policies for refugees came under fire as refugees advocated that they dismissed humanitarian crises around the world. A U.S official anonymously claimed that safety of the American people is a top priority and the state would undertake efforts to admit as many refugees as they could under the cap.

In Canada, the opinions greatly differ. As the majority of Canadians would not agree with the actions taken, nor would they want that to occur in Canada. That being said, there are those in Canada who want the same things to occur.

This is not an issue that will be resolved with ease. 9-11, and subsequent terror incidents have brought a belief in a large section of the American population that the religion of Islam is not compatible with western values and beliefs. In Canada, while terror incidents are not as prevalent, there are still questionable incidents such as honor killings which make citizens question people of certain races and ethnicities. These beliefs that people have, are driven by emotions and feelings. When the natural human inclination towards tribalism (us vs them) is factored in, the Trump administration’s decisions, as well as his election to office, begin to make more sense.

Racism is never excusable, but to dismiss people’s feelings of fear will only strengthen their resolve. Where only prejudice existed before, racism begins to form. This is part of what appears to have occurred during this last election. Many of the Republican bases, were tired of the “usual candidates” and chose to elect someone who talked directly to their fears, whether it be about Islam, Economic Security or the Mexican Border.

By understanding the fears of these people and actually discussing them, instead of simply dismissing them as racist, these issues can be brought to the light and addressed. The old adage of hate begets hate, and love begets love, comes to mind. These discussions must happen sooner rather than later in order for healing to begin. More delay means that more extremism occurs, and more people will get hurt or neglected.

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