McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Oct. 1 deadline for President Donald Trump to set the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States in fiscal year 2021 is quickly approaching, but the administration hasn’t even consulted with Congress on this matter as required by law, migrant advocates said Tuesday.
This is the latest in 40 years that an administration has delayed in this annual process, which sets the number of refugees who are allowed to resettle in the United States during the upcoming fiscal year.
On Oct. 1, 2019, President Trump signed an order to admit 18,000 refugees into the country for the current fiscal year. And while it took him up until the last minute, his administration had at least been in talks with members of Congress, specifically, leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees as required by the Refugee Act of 1980, migrant advocates said Tuesday during a call with media.
“By law, the Trump administration must consult with Congress by the end of the fiscal year, which is tomorrow, on setting the number of refugees,” said Jacinta Ma, vice president of policy and advocacy for the National Immigration Forum. “There are real concerns they could zero-out refugees entirely.”
“It seems like it isn’t on anybody’s priorities list, and we’re seeing families hurting, families are kept separated,” said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, a nonprofit that helps to resettle refugees in the United States.
Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security, and who worked for the Trump administration during last year’s process, said there will be no penalty if a refugee ceiling is not set by the deadline. And it doesn’t appear to be a priority during this coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact that they haven’t done a consultation with Congress signals that they aren’t planning on doing anything soon,” Neumann said in response to a question from Border Report.
Since March, the Trump administration has halted asylum-seekers and refugees from entering the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Migrant advocates fear that the coronavirus pandemic is being used as an excuse to completely cut all refugee resettlements for the foreseeable future.
In fiscal 2020, the administration drastically cut the number of admissible refugees to 18,000, down from 30,000 in fiscal 2019. However, as the pandemic set in and refugee settlements were put on hold, migrant advocates say that a total of only 10,892 refugees were admitted into the United States this fiscal year.
This is significantly lower than the 95,000 refugees who had been allowed to resettle in prior years, Ma said. And last week, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the U.S. government to restore its resettlement amount to 95,000.
Since the resettlement program began in 1980, a total of 3 million of refugees have been allowed to start a new life in the United States, Ma said.
Palusky said Bethany Christian Services tracks those who have been resettled, and many have worked on the front lines to help their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gideon Maltz, executive director of the nonprofit Tent Partnership for Refugees, said refugees are typically hard-working and entrepreneurial. A 2018 study by the National Immigration Forum found refugees are 40% more likely to start a business than native-born workers.
They have helped to boost the U.S. economy, which Maltz said is sorely needed during this economic downturn and loss of jobs caused by the pandemic.
We urge the president to issue a presidential determination and continue to welcome refugees,”Ashley Feasley, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
“Historically, the United States has been a leader to those fleeing persecution while setting an example for other countries around the world,” said Ashley Feasley, director of policy and public affairs for migration and refugee services for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We urge the president to issue a presidential determination and continue to welcome refugees.”
The refugee ceiling of 18,000 that the Trump administration set for this past fiscal year was divided into the following four categories with the following numbers allotted:
- Central Americans: 1,500
- Religions persecuted and minorities: 5,000
- P-2 Direct Access Program for Iraqis: 4,000
- Catch all: 7,000
However, only 10 Iraqis were admitted this past fiscal year, Feasley said.
“We have the ability to resettle thousands of migrants, and today we are urging the administration to let us do that,” Palusky said.
His organization on Tuesday released a report, “The Global Refugee Crisis” that found that that the long-term displacement crisis, made worse by violence, persecution, and the COVID-19 pandemic, has disproportionately affected children.
“As a Christian organization, our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors,” he said. “But with just over 10,000 resettled this year, we’ve seen things come to a crawl.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.