As we approach June 20, officially known as World Refugee Day, it’s a good time to reflect on the history of the refugee resettlement program, and what’s come of it. Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of the US Refugee Admissions Program. Over the course of four decades, the US had proven itself to be the leader in resettling refugees, bringing in an average of 95,000 per year, which is more than all other nations combined.
But sadly, that commitment was abruptly ended and the refugee resettlement program is currently only a shadow of its former self. It’s up to the President to determine how many refugees are admitted into the country in a given year, and since FY 2016 we’ve seen that number drop from 110,000 to 45,000 to 30,000 to the current 18,000, which is the lowest number in the history of the program. Last year Canada resettled more refugees than we did, and with the current limits on immigration, we aren’t likely to see half of the 18,000 allowed to be admitted by the end of this fiscal year.
America’s declining commitment to support the most vulnerable in the world comes as the number of refugees around the world is at a peak. There are presently more displaced people (70 million) and refugees (27 million) than at any time in recorded history, with tragedies unfolding in Syria, now in its 10th year of civil war; in Bangladesh, a poor country where the Rohingya fled from Myanmar, and where they are mired in some of the largest and most densely populated camps in the world; and in military hot spots like Yemen and South Sudan, which have been all but forgotten by the mainstream press. While our attention is understandably focused on domestic politics, the pandemic, and the racial and economic inequities in our own country, we cannot afford to forget the rest of the world.
The Refugee Admissions Program helped to reinforce the United States’ standing as a global leader among nations. In drastically reducing the number of refugees to whom we offer safe haven, we have forsaken that role. The Trump administration has argued that we must chose between taking care of our own citizens versus taking care of those who are suffering elsewhere in the world. But this is not a zero-sum game. To mark this year’s World Refugee Day, we call on our fellow citizens and Congress to uphold our traditional values and restore the Refugee Admissions Program to its former glory. Please contact your Representative and our Senators Menendez and Booker to make this a priority well ahead of October, which is the due date for the Presidential Determination establishing how many refugees will be permitted into the country in FY 2020-2021.
Executive Director, Welcome Home Jersey City
P.S. To commemorate World Refugee Day on Saturday, June 20, we are co-hosting two events on Facebook Watch Party.
From 10am to 3pm we are hosting a film festival with the Golden Door International Film Festival: https://www.facebook.com/events/273665093688985/.
From 3pm to 5pm we are co-hosting a music festival with the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music: https://www.facebook.com/events/1919737108160368/