Society

Refugee Admissions Down Sharply Under Trump

| by Jordan Smith

The number of refugees being accepted by the U.S. has dropped dramatically since Donald Trump took office in January.

In March, the U.S. accepted 2,070 refugees, the lowest number in a single month since 2013, USA Today reported.

April's total was 3,316, the second-lowest figure since 2013.

"The statements from this administration about refugees are shocking to me," Kay Bellor of the Lutheran Refugee and Immigration Service told USA Today. "It's language I've never heard used with refugees, who have always enjoyed bipartisan support because they're the best part of what the U.S. does."

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Refugees include people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution or natural disasters.

The Obama administration proposed accepting 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017, but Trump wants to cut that figure to 50,000.

Trump issued an executive order calling for levels to be reduced and the State Department noted that it had "adjusted the pace of refugee arrivals" to conform to that level.

This order was declared illegal by the judge in Hawaii who struck down Trump's second travel ban.

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Both of Trump's travel bans sought to halt the refugee program for 120 days so as to improve the vetting process. However, the intervention of the judiciary to block each measure meant that the refugee program was suspended only for seven days.

According to a bipartisan group of senators, the Department of Homeland Security has not resumed conducting overseas interviews with potential refugees since Trump issued his first executive order.

"Sometimes there is a small pause of a few days, while we gear up for the fiscal year -- but we've never had a four-month suspension of the program," Jen Smyers of the Church World Service, an official U.S. refugee resettlement agency, told the Washington Post. "Refugee processing has ground to a halt."

The group of senators is demanding that the Trump administration explain its approach to the refugee program. The senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly calling for detail on the administration's policy and a report on the state of refugee processing.

"This administration needs to be transparent about its refugee policies," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. "Our nation should continue to be a safe haven for those fleeing harm and if this administration is closing the door on refugees, Congress and the American people have a right to know."

The letter was supported by 11 Democrats and five Republicans.

Sources: USA Today, Washington Post / Photo credit: Benjamin Applebaum/Wikimedia Commons

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