Refugee resettlement organizations in Connecticut had harsh words for President Donald Trump after he slashed the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in the upcoming fiscal year to 45,000, the lowest level in decades.
“It’s shamefully low,” said Anne O’Brien, communications director for Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in New Haven. “There’s simply no reason for it given the responsibility we play as a world leader and where we are in terms of wealth within the world.”
President Barack Obama had set a goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. But when Trump took office he issued an executive order that cut that to a little more than 50,000. As a result, the number of refugees who came to Connecticut shrank from more than 1,000 to less than 600.
Claudia Connor said there was a feeling of “deep, profound disappointment” at the Bridgeport office of the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, where she is president and CEO.
“This is the lowest number of refugee admissions since 1980,” she said.
Connor said she feared hundreds of refugees who were already “in the pipeline” to arrive at agencies like CIRI may now learn that they won’t be allowed entry to the U.S.
On a call with reporters, a State Department official said the U.S. would still lead the world in refugee resettlements: Canada plans to accept 25,000 refugees and Australia will likely admit 18,000. The cap of 45,000 is needed to allow proper vetting of refugees, the official said.
O’Brien and Connor rejected the notion that the refugee ceiling was being lowered for security reasons. Many refugees arrive from countries that the Trump administration has never sought to restrict travel from, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they said.
It’s also not an issue of capacity. Both IRIS and CIRI have seen an increase in community groups that have come forward and volunteered to help resettle refugee families.
“We doubled our volume in 2016,” O’Brien said. “We were prepared to do it again.”
Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation had pressed for the Trump administration not to scale back the refugee program.
“Welcoming properly vetted refugees is both a moral imperative and enhances America’s leadership and credibility abroad,” Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal wrote in a letter with 32 of their colleagues this week. “Failing to do our part to protect the victims of this global crisis undermines U.S. leadership, diplomacy, and national security.”
In a written statement, Blumenthal said the Trump administration was effectively shutting out “women and girls fleeing Boko Haram, Syrian and Iraqi children who have lost their entire families to armed conflict, Rohingya escaping persecution in Burma and so many others.”
Other efforts by Trump to restrict immigration to the U.S. have been challenged in court but there’s agreement that setting a limit on how many refugees the country will accept is within the president’s powers.
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