Menendez, Albright OpEd: Lift the refugee cap, Mr. Trump. America needs more.
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today penned an op-ed for USA Today calling on President Trump to reverse his decision to cut the number of refugees allowed to the United States for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to a new low of 30,000.
“As a refugee who fled from fascism and communism in Europe and became America’s Secretary of State, and as the son of immigrants forced to flee Cuba who is now a U.S. Senator, we find it impossible to be coldly analytical on the subject of refugees. America served as a beacon of hope for our families, and we refuse to lose sight of the human consequences of turning away those forced from their homes,” Menendez and Albright wrote. “As Americans, we now face a choice: Do we embrace the responsibility of refugee resettlement, live up to our best values, and in doing so continue to lead the world? Or do we follow down this dark and isolationist path, which will leave us morally and economically bankrupt, and alone in the world without allies or partners?”
Read the op-ed in its entirety here and below:
Lift the refugee cap, Mr. Trump. America needs more: Madeleine Albright and Bob Menendez
USA Today | Madeleine Albright and Bob Menendez
Every day, roughly 44,000 people around the world are forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict or the threat of persecution. There are now more forcibly displaced people worldwide than ever before, including many who cannot safely return home or remain where they found refuge.
The mounting toll of this global humanitarian crisis is impossible to ignore. But instead of stepping up to help, the Trump administration is once again fomenting nativist zealotry, inciting fear, and stepping all over America’s historic commitment to refugee resettlement.
Since taking office, President Trump has sought to end U.S. refugee admissions entirely and has succeeded in slowing them down to a trickle. And this month, the administration announced that the annual ceiling for refugee admissions would be slashed to 30,000 — an all-time low.
This repugnant decision turns our back on refugees precisely when U.S. leadership is most needed. It will do untold damage across the world, further undermine America’s strength and blemish our global reputation.
Resettlement was a bipartisan source of pride
For decades, both Republican and Democratic administrations held our commitment to refugee resettlement as a point of pride, a reflection of our fundamental values, and a service to our strategic and humanitarian interests. Following the international community’s tragic failure to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis, the United States has demonstrated strong global leadership by providing safe haven to the world’s most vulnerable. We admitted thousands of the “Lost Boys” of South Sudan, airlifted Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon, and provided refuge to Bhutanese victims of ethnic cleansing and Kosovar victims of genocide. Following the worst terrorist attack on our nation’s soil on 9/11, President George W. Bush set a refugee admissions ceiling of 70,000 and refused to cut it in the years that followed.
As a refugee who fled from fascism and communism in Europe and became America’s Secretary of State, and as the son of immigrants forced to flee Cuba who is now a U.S. Senator, we find it impossible to be coldly analytical on the subject of refugees. America served as a beacon of hope for our families, and we refuse to lose sight of the human consequences of turning away those forced from their homes.
Refugees are not statistics. They are widowed mothers, orphaned children, and entire families who are victims of violence, extremist groups, and brutal regimes.
But we did not become a global resettlement leader out of pure altruism. By welcoming refugees, we have aided our economy, strengthened our country and served our foreign policy interests. We have helped those whose lives were in danger because they assisted U.S. troops abroad. Refugees have created diverse, thriving communities in places like Camden and Elizabeth in New Jersey and Denver, Colorado. They become deeply patriotic and hardworking Americans who return more in taxes than they receive in benefits and invigorate towns with new energy and businesses. They are our nurses, police officers, teachers, doctors, agricultural and retail workers.
Refugee resettlement also promotes global stability, and elevates our moral leadership in addressing the world’s most complex problems. Countries such as Bangladesh, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Turkey, and Pakistan each shelter hundreds of thousands of refugees, and look to us for leadership as they face tremendous domestic pressure to turn away those fleeing violence and persecution. By rejecting our shared obligation to take an appropriate number of refugees, President Trump damages our ability to work with partners, undermines our credibility and cedes critical leverage to hold other countries accountable for their own response to this global crisis. And though the administration claims a strategy of helping refugees “over there,” it has twice proposed slashing overseas refugee assistance by almost 20 percent.
Trump needlessly threatens resettlement
In 1980, the U.S. welcomed more than 200,000 refugees, and since then has, on average, admitted an annual average of 80,000 per year. Despite entreaties from nearly every organized faith community in this country, the Trump administration not only cut the 2018 limit for refugee arrivals to a shocking 45,000, it erected so many arbitrary hurdles that we will fall woefully short of that meager goal. And now, it has cut the ceiling even further for 2019.
Helped by the general chaos and whiplash of the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda, anti-immigrant hardliners have been able to push out seasoned professionals who understand the national security importance of refugee resettlement. At the same time, the White House has continued to publicly fan unnecessary fear over security and stoke economic resentment by routinely distorting the truth about refugees, refugee resettlement, and the Administration’s own actions.
But missing from the administration’s rhetoric are actual facts: that refugee resettlement to the United States is a longstanding humanitarian tradition; that refugees are still the most vetted category of any traveler to our country; and that refugees are more likely to be victims of crime in the United States than perpetrators. Even a report from this administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which it later sought to repress, estimated the net positive fiscal impact of refugees in the United States to be $63 billion from 2005-2014.
As we confront a confluence of unprecedented domestic and international challenges, Trump’s decision to lower refugee caps for next year is yet another stress test for our values.
We are a nation that has flourished because of our embrace of immigrants, dreamers, and innovators, and because of our belief in human rights and the dignity of all people. We must continue to be that beacon of light to the darkest corners of the world.
As Americans, we now face a choice: Do we embrace the responsibility of refugee resettlement, live up to our best values, and in doing so continue to lead the world? Or do we follow down this dark and isolationist path, which will leave us morally and economically bankrupt, and alone in the world without allies or partners?
Madeleine Albright was United States secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.
Bob Menendez represents New Jersey in the U.S. Senate, where he is the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Juan Pachon 202-224-4651
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