Despite taking a hard line against refugees seeking admittance into the United States while on the campaign trail, according to emails from the State Department from last week, President Donald Trump and his administration will be substantially increasing the quota for refugee arrivals. After a pronounced decline in refugee arrivals since Trump took office, the quota will increase from around 900 per week to 1,500.
According to the New York Times, the lifting of restrictions and Trump’s previously asserted 50,000 refugees per year cap is due to a budget passed by Congress. The lift on restrictions is reportedly unrelated to a recent decision by a federal appeals court blocking Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries.
By September this year, the total number of refugees admitted into the United States could rise above 70,000, according to estimates by refugee advocates. Still, a recent report by the Pew Research Center found that monthly refugee arrivals are still significantly down in all but four states during the 2017 fiscal year, and refugee arrivals declined from 9,945 in October to 3,316 in April.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) May 27, 2017
Additionally, there are concerns about whether or not the United States is prepared and equipped to help refugees complete their vetting application process.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Experts are also concerned about the near-complete halt in interviews and screenings by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which is required for refugees to complete the application process.
“Only people with urgent cases are being screened and interviewed,” [Erol] Kekic, [executive director of the immigration and refugee program at Church World Service] said. “Unless we continue to add people to the pipeline, we aren’t certain if we will be able to even meet the level of 50,000 refugees entering the U.S. for fiscal year 2018.”
In either case, it’s important to note that this administration is hardly a friend to refugees. Trump has previously called for priority to be given to Christian refugees, and portrayed Syrian refugees as national security threats. Last year, his son Donald Trump, Jr. likened refugees to poisoned Skittles, claiming you could never know which were dangerous or disguised terrorists.
Republican opponents of refugees have a long history of undermining thorough, years-long vetting processes refugees are required to undergo, and likening refugee families to the very terrorists they are fleeing from, simply because of their nationalities.
Nonetheless, the State Department’s lifting of restrictions is a surprising step in the right direction.