Around 1.4 million refugees around the world need resettlement
Last year I met Malik, an Iraqi refugee stranded with his family in Beirut, Lebanon after the U.S. government failed to keep its promise to resettle him, his wife and their two sons. They fled Iraq in 2013, fearing for their lives because they are Christian, no longer able to take the harassment, discrimination, and threats against their lives.
After years of not knowing what would happen next and having limited opportunity to work or put down any roots in Lebanon, they were finally accepted for resettlement to U.S. in 2016.
They allowed themselves to finally believe that their dream of joining their family here in the U.S., rebuilding their lives, and practicing their religion in peace could become a reality.
Sadly, that fleeting hope has come face to face with the reality that the U.S. policies towards refugees are no longer ones of welcome. Instead, they are ones of walls and bans.
Malik and his family are part of the 1.4 million refugees around the world in need of resettlement this year, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Despite that need, the world will likely not even be able to meet a small fraction of that need.
This country used to be a leader in resettling refugees in the world. That is no longer the case. Now, some in the Trump administration are actively considering allowing no refugees to be resettled to the U.S. next year.
Under current law, the president should set the refugee admissions goal every September. While the law doesn’t outline a minimum number the president should set, it’s not hard to make the case that Congress never intended the president to set a refugee admissions goal of zero considering the initial goal they set was 50,000.
They also provided the president the authority to admit more refugees throughout the year in the event the president determines an emergency requires it. president Trump should set a refugee admissions goal in line with the U.S. history of welcoming those seeking safety. We should be talking about how we can do more to help, not shuttering the program entirely.
All throughout the country, communities have been showing that they are prepared to do more. Faith communities, employers, retired U.S. military officials, and everyday people have spoken up about their desire to do more to help refugees and the significant impact they bring to their communities.
This September, state and local elected leaders from nearly every state signed a joint letter in support of refugees and asking the president to set a refugee admissions goal of 95,000.
The fact is, we shouldn’t have to be pressuring this administration to accept even a tiny fraction of what we used to. We should instead be talking about how the U.S. can do more, not less. Refugees are people, with stories just as powerful as any person reading this.
They are our neighbors, colleagues, and friends. Refugees should be treated with compassion. They have left their homes because they have no other choice. They want the same safety that any of us would want if we were in their shoes. They just want to be a part of a safe community again. Welcoming them is who we are.
The president is seemingly abusing his power by demonizing refugees and refusing to welcome them to our country.
Congress intended the president and the relevant agencies to have a consultative process with them in setting the refugee admissions goal. What we have instead is a few individuals working behind closed doors deciding how many — or how few — refugees the U.S. will accept, and how many it will leave in limbo and in danger.
Congress doesn’t need to be silent on this. The GRACE Act would require the president to set the refugee admissions goal at a level that is in line with this country’s most cherished values. Change is possible. It is up to Congress to pass the GRACE Act now. Refugees like Malik, whose lives are on hold, deserve nothing less.
Ryan Mace is a grassroots advocacy and refugee specialist at Amnesty International USA.