Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration will cut refugee admissions from 45,000 per year to 30,000, citing national security issues and a back log of over 800,000 applicants overwhelming an already taxed system.
Pompeo was firm in his remarks at the State Department: “Some will characterize the refugee ceiling as the sole barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world. This would be wrong.”
Say what you will but it appears that sanity – long ago kicked to the curb at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – is making a strong comeback.
And it’s about time.
Refugees vs Asylum
Most Americans, including our elected officials, routinely use “refugee” and “asylum seeker” interchangeably – but the words don’t mean quite the same thing.
Refugees are people fleeing armed conflicts or persecution and are protected by international law, specifically, the 1951 Refugee Convention. An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose assertion hasn’t been evaluated. To take the massive influx of people swarming across our borders as refugees muddies the waters – and is flat out wrong.
History of Insanity
Since the inception of the 1980 Refugee Act, 2017 marked the first time that the United States resettled fewer refugees than the rest of the world combined. But the U.S. wasn’t the only country to downsize: Canada and Australia lowered their acceptance number significantly.
Prior administrations were part and parcel to allowing an unmanageable influx of asylum seekers that contributed to the breakdown of vetting and admissions – the federal government simply could not keep up with the demand.
President George H. W. Bush was the first to propose a 125,000-refugee ceiling, while President Bill Clinton’s solution was to not allow any across the border at all. Rather, he held Haitians at Guantanamo, Cuba – although the legacy media doesn’t seem to remember that debacle. President George W. Bush appeared to like the number at 70,000 but then raised it to 80,000 during his final year in office.
Obama’s legacy was to welcome 38,901 Muslim refugees in fiscal year 2016, “making up almost half (46%) of the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the country in that period,” according to Pew Research Center.
Pompeo also pointed out the previous program had allowed a member of ISIS into our country. How can the government possibly manage this program? Obviously, attempts fell short. And one member of ISIS is one too many.
And then America elected a businessman as president, putting a stop to the nonsense of a government program overrun with vetting errors and without any promise of maintainable support.
The High Cost of Humanity
Refugees figuratively pick the taxpayer’s pockets.
According to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), “the annual cost to U.S. taxpayers is $1.8 billion and over five years, that financial burden skyrockets to $8.8 billion.”
The study further showed:
- The cost per refugee to American taxpayers just under $79,600 every year in the first five years after a refugee is resettled in the U.S.;
- In 2016, the State Department spent nearly $545 million to process and resettle refugees, including $140,389,177 on transportation costs;
- Of the $1.8 billion in resettlement costs, $867 billion was spent on welfare alone;
- In their first five years, approximately 54 percent of all refugees will hold jobs that pay less than $11 an hour;
- $71 million will be spent to educate refugees and asylum-seekers, a majority of which will be paid by state and local governments.
- Over five years, an estimated 15.7 percent of all refugees will need housing assistance, which is roughly $7,600 per household in 2014 dollars.
Those costs undoubtedly have risen.
The 1980 Refugee Act gives the highest priority to the voluntary return of refugees to their homelands and the United States is the most generous nation in helping people stay in their home country and build a safer, economically viable environment.
America is a humanitarian powerhouse and the Oval Office is the go-to call for world leaders when they need peace in a region and help for their people. And America always takes that call.
As Pompeo reminded the world:
“We can house, feed, and provide medical care for hundreds of thousands more refugees closer to their homes and do so more rapidly than we could possibly do here in the United States. The ultimate goal is the best possible care and safety of these people in need, and our approach is designed to achieve this noble objective.”
Exactly. Americans want to help, to heal, and to welcome those who must leave their homeland. But we have to accomplish these goals in a logical, thoughtful, sustainable way. Although we want to embrace refugees, we must not forget we have an obligation to the health and welfare of our own first.
And that’s what the President and his administration are doing.