Cornell Law School Prof: Trump Administration's Refugee Admissions Cut Hurts U.S.

The Trump administration announced late this afternoon that it plans to cut the annual cap on refugee admissions by 40%, from 30,000 this year to 18,000 for the fiscal year that starts October 1. The 18,000 cap is the lowest in U.S. history, amid a historic high of nearly 71 million displaced people around the world. Among those displaced people, nearly 26 million are designated refugees, and more than half of the refugees are under 18. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, the United States admitted more refugees.

The administration justifies limiting refugee admissions because of an alleged crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and a backlog of asylum cases. Those justifications fail. Fewer people are apprehended trying to enter the United States from Mexico now than in 2000 (1.6 million in 2000 versus an estimated 900,000 this fiscal year). Moreover, the Trump administration has aggravated the backlog in asylum cases by failing to hire enough immigration judges.

Such a cut in U.S. refugee admissions is bad for both humanitarian and economic reasons. The United States has a moral responsibility to help refugees fleeing natural disasters, famine and war. Refusing to accept more refugees damages our nation’s standing in the world and makes it harder for refugees to find safety.

Refugees also contribute to our economy. In a refugee’s first 20 years, the United States spends roughly $107,000 per person in relocation and social program costs, but each refugee pays nearly $130,000 in taxes over the same time span, not to mention the other benefits most immigrants bring to our economy. Moreover, after six years, refugees have higher employment rates than U.S.-born citizens.

This refugee cut hurts both our standing and ourselves.”

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