Again, Standing Up for Refugees

October 26, 2017
By Avi Rose

Once again, we are aghast at actions taken by the Trump administration to decimate the U.S. refugee program. And once again, reflecting on our own values and history, we are determined to do whatever we can to prevent the doors from being slammed shut in the faces of those desperate to find freedom and safety in our country.

Last week, the president established a woeful 45,000 target number for refugee arrivals in the current federal year, the lowest annual number since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980. Now, adding insult to injury, he has put forth guidelines that will make even that terribly low number virtually impossible to reach.

The new executive order is essentially another refugee ban under a different guise. The new policies will harass and delay prospective refugees, especially those coming from a targeted list of Muslim-majority countries. Many of these people have already gone through an exhaustive vetting process, but will now see their eligibility revoked and will be exposed to further danger and heartache. They have complied with the long process in good faith; that good faith has not been answered in kind.

As was true with the previous executive orders, these new policies will do nothing to enhance security. Refugees are already screened and vetted extensively and repeatedly, far more than any other group of people entering the United States. Policies like these serve only to create fear, leading people to believe that refugees are the cause of their problems and deflecting attention from real causes. It’s scapegoating, plain and simple.

There is nothing new about this refrain. It echoes the justification for excluding European Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 40s: our strange religion was somehow “un-American,” we harbored secret subversive ideologies, we were saboteurs and simply not to be trusted. What we hear today is tragically familiar.

Someday, the United States will resume leadership in welcoming refugees along with other nations. We will once again have a refugee program that responds to global humanitarian crises, sets realistic yet ambitious goals for resettlement, and takes steps to address real security issues. Until that time, those of us who care about refugees, understand the meaning of “welcoming the stranger,’ and remember our own history, will continue to raise our voices in support of those who are fleeing for their lives.