Like most Americans and citizens around the world, we were appalled by the recent comments reliably attributed to the President of the United States, in which he suggested that country of nationality, in and of itself, should impact eligibility for immigration to the United States. This would not only depart from long-held U.S. policy and core values of the United States, it would break with the fundamental principle that the United States is a country defined by universal values and not by allegiance to any particular nationality or ethnicity.
Given that Refugees International (RI) is a global humanitarian organization, the President’s comments are of particular concern. His words also risk emboldening efforts within his administration to inject bias into U.S. international humanitarian policy. For decades, U.S. officials have publicly emphasized the critical importance of refugee and humanitarian polices that recognize the value and worth of every human being without discrimination, no matter their religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin, and that recognize that overseas relief aid to civilians must be based on their vulnerability.
That is as it should be.
However, whether it is recent changes in the U.S. refugee admissions program that depart from need-based criteria on who will be permitted to resettle in the United States, the imposition of unreasonable obstacles on refuge for individuals from Muslim majority countries, or the freezing of relief aid to Palestinian civilians based on political criteria that have nothing to with the vulnerability of the children, women and men receiving humanitarian assistance, recent Trump Administration measures raise deeply alarming concerns about bias in the U.S. government’s evolving approach to international humanitarian response.
Regrettably, the President’s comments last week suggest sympathy to these kinds of troubling developments, which must be rejected by Members of Congress and the American public.