One of President Trump’s most misguided policies concerns refugees in the U.S.. Donald Trump used his argument of “keeping refugees out” as a means to rise in popularity with conservative support and ultimately win the presidential election. Keeping his promise, Trump cuts down the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and issues an executive order banning refugees and citizens from Muslim countries from entering the United States. However, his misguided conception that these people are dangerous ends up only blocking the U.S. from helping those in need of protection from their war torn homelands, and does not make the American people any more secure.
The USRAP is an already difficult system to navigate for refugees coming to the United States, requiring applications, screenings, and interviews conducted by Homeland Security that can take years upon application. First, Resettle Support Centers (RSC) take on refugee cases and start the screening process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews each application thoroughly and only “spotless” applications are allowed entry. Trump’s executive order issued the first month of his presidency included a 90 day travel ban on individuals from predominantly Muslim countries and a 120 day suspension on the refugee program. This cuts down the number of refugees admitted by one half and Syrian refugees are not to be admitted at all until the president changes his mind otherwise. Syrian refugees are among the most vulnerable refugee groups and they are most in need of Asylum, but because of the Trump administration’s embrace of unfounded beliefs that the refugee program is a “back door” for potential terrorists, very few Syrians will be allowed entry into the United States this fiscal year (see “Of Boats and Barbarians” November 2015).
President Trump justifies his actions with the belief that refugees are detrimental to American society and allowing entry to individuals from Muslim countries will increase the chances of a terror attack. He and certain elements in the Republican party believe that refugee programs can potentially help ISIS find their way into America and endanger the lives of many. This incredibly prejudiced belief that “all Muslims are terrorists” caused massive uproar, yet it also spurred support from ignorant and paranoid Americans. With this mindset, Trump issued his executive orders and cut down drastically on the refugee resettlement program while issuing a travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries. His misguided actions hurt millions of innocent refugees in need and place the blame on the victim.
Terror has been one of the biggest problems in the U.S. after 9/11, and the government ever since has been trying their best to stop any more attacks. Trump issued his executive order believing it will help stop terror attacks, however ISIS is very unlikely to use the immigration process to infiltrate into the U.S. The process is too complicated and painstaking, so putting bans on the program will only make it harder for those actually in need to enter the states. Since 9/11, the U.S. resettled 784,000 refugees, and only 3 out of the 784,000 were convicted of potentially planning a terror attack, when in reality only one was planning an attack in the U.S.** Trump intends to ban terrorists from entering, but instead bans innocent citizens desperately in need of a safe haven from persecution back home.
Trump’s extremely strict enforcement of immigration caused many desperate refugees to find other ways to get asylum. The Safe Third Country agreement, a pact between the U.S. and Canada, encourages refugees to travel on foot to Canada, often through dangerous routes.*** However, many argue against this as it is too dangerous and does not guarantee asylum for refugees. Migrants and refugees are desperately trying to find new ways to escape from persecution, and with Trump’s misguided conceptions on immigrants from Muslim majority countries they only face more discrimination and misfortune, and they do nothing to make America safer. America should continue to accept refugees in accordance with the policies established by the Refugee Act of 1980. Trump’s intentions to protect the U.S. from terror attacks are good, but he is investing his time into the wrong thing when it comes to actually stopping terrorism. Travel bans and reductions of refugee programs won’t stop terrorism and will only hurt the lives of countless victims.
*From Pastor Chris Oberg’s sermon “Capital H Hospitality,” La Sierra University Church, July 8. The sermon was about the Christian practice of radical hospitality, and did not specifically name the President or his refugee policy.
**Kathleen Newland, The U.S. Record Shows Refugees Are Not a Threat (Migration Policy Institute, 2015).
***Ashifa Kassam, Activists Challenge ‘Unsafe’ US-Canada Pact That Prompts Refugees to Flee by Foot (The Guardian, 2017)
Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty, in NYT, February 24, 2017.