A lot of people in this country may support that. It’s a big part of why Trump won. But we don’t. We think diversity is what built this country and keeps it strong.
Many, if not most of our forefathers (and mothers) here in America came as the result of some form of religious persecution and/or life-threatening events. That goes all the way back to the Pilgrims and the Colonists at Jamestown, To Irish escaping famine, and Jews escaping the prospect of extermination. And so many others escaping man-made and natural disasters.
Other people came for a combination of those, and the fact that America offered freedom from oppression, even when their lives weren’t immediately threatened. Still others came for a combination of that, and economic opportunity. Some came for economic opportunity alone.
For a long time they were all described by one word: immigrant. But then, a bunch of decades ago now, the government decided to separately consider refugees, or people who really truly had nowhere to go to be safe, as special cases. And special attention was paid to taking these people in, using the benefits of several government and private-sector programs designed to do just that.
But Trump has slammed the brakes on all that, as he promised he would. And in fact slammed it into reverse. Not just for immigrants, but for people who are really in peril, with their lives on the line, with no place else to go. And according to the World Bank, the number of people legitimately finding themselves in that situation is soaring.
“Our country is full”, says the President, to people for whom this country is their only hope, and which was built by people who were refugees, or would’ve been considered refugees in the past.
And while we were all focused on Ukraine and the whistleblower last week—and so was Trump! (who also found time to threaten Civil War!)—he still did manage to find the time to decide to slash the maximum numbers of refugees the U.S. will accept to 18,000 this year, about half the number of people as last year, and about 1/10th of the number during President Obama’s final year in office. 18,000 may still seem like a lot, but if that was the total number of fans coming to a game at a major sports stadium, for instance, it’d be a pretty sparse crowd. And partly due to all the asylum seekers Trump is turning away at the borders, and all the undocumented people in the U.S. he’s deporting, a lot of federal government employees are tied up with that, so the vetting and screening process for refugees is moving even slower than ever before, meaning even the historically low 18,000 number will probably not be reached.
Another thing about that 18,000 number, nearly 25% of those spots are reserved for people who worked with U.S. Military in Iraq, and their families. Which is fair and pressing enough, but that knocks the number down of people who might get into the U.S. not because they did us a much needed and risky favor, but also because they are really in peril.
Now, instead of being the world leader in this area, the U.S. has suddenly become a laggard. Canada, which has a much, much smaller population than the U.S., now accepts many, many more refugees. The U.S. is heading to a level comparable to Australia, which is not known for welcoming refugees with open arms either.
And if you look at the numbers from the viewpoint of percentage of refugees compared to overall number of people living in a particular country, the U.S. number is very, very low, even with all those refugees Obama let in. By this measure, Turkey may have the highest number of refugees, given it’s close geographical proximity to its neighbor, Syria, and lots of people fleeing both Syria’s government and ISIS in recent years.
Although as we said, all this is something Trump campaigned on, so everything except maybe the heartlessness and severity of it should come as no surprise. Still, there are a few things that puzzle us about how this is all coming down:
Trump has put a high premium on protecting religious freedom. In fact, he’s got an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the form of Sam Brownback. You may know him as the former Governor who ran the state of Kansas into financial ruin. (He also signed a law while governor forbidding imposing sharia law in Kansas, as if that ever was going to happen in real life). While Trump has made no secret of prioritizing attention for Christians who may be under threat because of their religion (as opposed to Islamic sects, etc.), Brownback has done a lot of work with Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, and they in fact represented one of the largest groups of refugees admitted to the U.S. last year. Yet some if not many of Trump’s advisors believe (as did his first national security advisor), that Muslims would take over the U.S. if given the chance. And yet they’re pushing back a wall of people from Central America who really want or need to get into the U.S., and for the most part are devoutly Christian. Wouldn’t that be enough of a mitigating factor for Trump’s team to look favorably on at least a good number of them?
Bottom line: should Trump win a second term; maybe even before the next Presidential election, don’t be surprised if he brings the refugee number down to virtually zero.
You may applaud that, or you may may revile it. But either way it represents a fundamental change to what this country has been all about, and why it’s so great and powerful.