HIAS PA Statement on New Refugee Guidelines

The recent Executive Order by the current Administration announcing the resumption of the United States Refugee Program is misguided and deceptive. The order effectively dismantles the refugee program for a great percentage of refugees waiting for resettlement.  It means that the United States will see very few refugee arrivals in the next few months and throughout the next year. It amounts to another refugee ban by a different name.

The Administration is trying to dismantle the refugee resettlement program however they can, in a series of changes that will result in long delays, family separation, and vulnerable refugees who have no option for safety. The Administration cannot claim that it is reopening the refugee resettlement program while simultaneously layering on policy changes that will halt the program.

The order immediately ended the “following-to-join” program, making it difficult for spouses and children separated in their flight from their homes to reunite.The order also calls for enhanced reviews for refugees from 11 nationalities. The countries targeted for an additional 90-day suspension and added screening are Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and stateless Palestinians.  All of the 11 countries except North Korea and South Sudan are Muslim-majority countries. Many refugees coming to the United States from those countries, however, are religious minorities. These new requirements also delay access to safety for Iraqis who supported the U.S. Government and U.S. efforts in Iraq.

These eleven nationalities made up 44% of all refugee arrivals in FY 2017, primarily from Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Iran. And no terrorist attacks from these arrivals or any others in previous years have occurred. Yet the United States, through this latest as well as earlier Orders and Proclamations continues to behave as if there is danger in every corner, using the age old political weapons of fear, mis-trust and terror to pretend to the country that their actions are justified. Because the targeted countries make up almost half of refugee arrivals, It is very likely that the delay and the added enhanced review process may result in the United States meeting no more than half of the already shamelessly low 45,000 refugee admissions goal the Administration announced for 2018.

Refugees already undergo the strictest security vetting of anyone coming to the United States and statistics prove that the refugee resettlement program is the safest immigration program in the United States. Since 1980, of the more than 3 million refugees have been resettled in the U.S., not one has committed a terrorist act here. Adding on additional vetting makes no one safer--it only makes it more bureaucratically difficult to come to the United States and robs the United States of the opportunity to enrich our economy, our culture and our standing in the world.

The Administration’s Executive Order is clearly designed to block refugees not for safety concerns but  in order to make it as difficult as possible for refugees, particularly those from Muslim-majority countries, to enter to United States. It is one in a long series of actions designed to thrust our country into an isolated darkness far from who we are and have been as a country. This does not reflect our American values and does not reflect who we are as a nation. We urge every American whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country seeking refuge and economic opportunity in a land filled with the promise of freedom to speak out loudly and often - call Congress, write letters to the Editor, vote. And those whose ancestors  were compelled here against their will, stand with us and do the same because while we can’t change the negative history that brought you here, together we can continue to fight for freedom for all. Closing our doors does nothing to help Americans and is part of the same divide and conquer strategy that has been used effectively by the powerful against the vulnerable for centuries. The American dream, Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, is inclusive not exclusive. Keep the doors open.


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