The Trump Administration Executive Order on Refugees

Refugees International strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s Executive Order targeting refugees fleeing war and persecution across the globe. The Executive Order has the effect of reversing our country’s time honored policy of providing refuge to the world’s most persecuted peoples.  Citing totally unfounded concerns, the Executive Order puts in place barriers to U.S. entry that are transparently discriminatory on the basis of religion.

We call on members of Congress - both Republicans and Democrats - who have steadfastly protected refugees and defended American principles so many times in the past, to take action and re-establish the American value of protecting people seeking refuge. We urge them to oppose the prejudice that underlies the president’s Executive Order, and encourage them to ensure that U.S. refugee resettlement programs continue and remain fully funded.

The United States was founded as a country of refugees and migrants from whom our democratic values, moral and political leadership, and economic prowess and ingenuity descend. Since then, and as the lead architect of the collective post-World War II human rights and humanitarian structures, the United States has taken pride in its historic role as refuge for those who flee conflict and suffering.  Further, since its founding, the United States has upheld and defended religious freedom and the inalienable rights of each human being. At a time when the international community faces the largest displacement crisis since World War II, the president is abandoning America’s historic leadership role, failing to acknowledge the basic tenets and fundamental rights and principles upon which this country was built – and which make this country truly great.

The assertion that the U.S. government has no idea who these refugees and asylum-seekers are is blatantly incorrect. The vetting process for refugees is extremely rigorous. Moreover, refugees prioritized for U.S. resettlement include especially vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied children, female-headed households, and people with disabilities or injuries. The totally unfounded claim that refugees from Muslim-majority countries are a security threat further encourages other countries to shirk their responsibility to provide shelter and safety to refugees and displaced people. This will not only harm individuals seeking protection from the unspeakable horrors of war and persecution, but will also risk further destabilizing whole regions. Forcing already strained neighboring countries to take on more and the most vulnerable refugees will have a disproportionate effect on their ability to cope and remain stable. It is critical to these countries that the United States shares the responsibility. 

Moreover, the refugees targeted by the Executive Order are the victims of aggression and persecution by the very factions the United States seeks to oppose – extremists who threaten not only the security within their homelands but that of the wider international community. Further, there is no evidence that the U.S. refugee resettlement program has been linked to the admission of individuals who have committed terrorist acts within the United States.  Rather, the program has proven its value in building bridges to Muslim communities here and abroad.

The Executive Order also has disturbing implications for international refugee policies. Today, the world needs more support and protection for refugees, not less. At a U.N. summit last September, world leaders met to forge mechanisms to increase responsibility-sharing and cooperation in responding to refugee crises. This Executive Order weakens U.S. leadership in that effort by withdrawing from the commitments made at the summit. Further, it sends a potentially damaging signal to countries that are actually hosting the bulk of the world’s refugees, countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Jordan, and Lebanon.

President Trump’s action targets refugees who would come to the U.S. under a legal resettlement program. The president is freezing a decades-old program that has been effective and has saved lives. Currently, 25 percent of the world’s refugees are Syrians, people who have suffered horrific and immeasurable losses over the past five years. Further, the Executive Order targets entire groups of people from Muslim-majority nations as potential threats to American security – that assumption is baseless and xenophobic. 

No one chooses to be a refugee. The Executive Order the president signed today will only serve to punish innocent men, women, and children who only seek safety, peace, and a better life. We must fight to protect them and the long-treasured principles of openness and freedom upon which the United States was proudly founded.