Should the U.S. take in more refugees?
First came the border wall.
Then, travel bans, border detention centers and ICE raids.
It seems like for as long as Donald Trump is president, immigration is destined to dominate the news cycle.
Now, the most recent controversy making its rounds through national news is refugee resettlement. In late September, President Trump drew anger from his opponents (and kudos from his supporters) for slashing the country’s refugee cap to 18,000.
Every year, Congress and the president agree on a maximum number of refugees to let into the country. And for the third year in a row, Trump has set the refugee cap at a record low.
Surprised by the low number? That’s understandable, considering that the U.S. has been a world leader in resettling refugees for at least the past 40 years. But if you know anything about Donald Trump’s U.S. immigration policies and his plans for immigration laws, then you know the new cap isn’t exactly unexpected.
Since the beginning of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made immigration his main issue.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said during his campaign bid. He then added, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Well — that’s certainly one way to launch a campaign.
The president’s words got him plenty of pushback, rage and protests. But they also won him a loyal following of people who share his views.
So why change course on immigration if voters are responding? That’s why major religious groups and human rights organizations are criticizing the new refugee cap.
They say that as long as the president has something to gain from keeping immigrants out, these types of decisions will be rooted in bigotry.
Why is the refugee cap so low?
Before we get into the official and “unofficial” reasons for the record-low refugee cap, let’s put things into perspective.
According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the refugee cap has been as high as 230,000 in 1980 and as low as 67,000 in 1966.
That’s why there was such an uproar when President Trump lowered the 2019 limit to just 30,000, down from 45,000 the year before. And that’s why the new ceiling is getting so much anger now.
The Trump administration, however, is standing by the new limit.
According to the State Department, the current U.S. immigration system is under too much strain to be able to process more refugee cases. And the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said that before dealing with refugees, the U.S. needs to worry about the “crisis at the southern border.”
But human rights groups and refugee organizations aren’t buying it.
HIAS, a Jewish nonprofit that aids refugees, slammed the decision and said that the White House “has once again brought our country to a new low.”
Other critics of the refugee cap agreed.
Some called the new maximum unfair and cruel. Others said the president’s reasons for limiting refugees were false, given that even when there has been a backlog of applications in the past, the U.S. has always been a leader in refugee resettlement.
Are there good reasons to restrict refugees?
There’s no question that the Trump administration has made it a priority to decrease both legal and illegal immigration. During his presidency, Trump has toughened the rules for political asylum, promised to ramp up deportations, tried to do away with DACA and more.
When it comes to migrants and refugees, the president and his top advisors have consistently repeated what many Americans (well, Republican-Americans) already think: that immigration is a threat to national security and the nation’s economy.
As usual, though, these views fall along party lines.
Democrats view immigrants in a better light, and many liberal Americans believe refugees in particular are important for a strong economy.
Let’s take a look at what each side has to say about the biggest questions regarding asylum-seekers and political refugees.
Do we know who we’re letting in?
Many refugees come from some of the most dangerous places on earth. They come from countries with gang violence, government corruption, high murder rates and more.
This makes some Americans nervous. Many worry that allowing a large number of refugees to resettle in the U.S. would make it easier for a few really dangerous people to sneak in too.
It’s an understandable concern, especially for Americans who aren’t familiar with the vetting process or do not trust that it is thorough enough.
At the moment, political refugees and other types of refugees who are being considered for resettlement go through a pretty lengthy vetting process:
- Rounds of face-to-face interviews
- Verification of personal information
- Fingerprint screening
- Additional reviews
- Collection of biometric information
The entire process is extremely thorough and can take two years or longer. According to officials, this makes it extremely hard for any dangerous individual
to enter the U.S. as a refugee.
Do refugees threaten our national security?
One of the biggest fears around refugees and those who immigrate to the U.S. is that they will cause a spike in crime rates. This seems to be one of the biggest reasons why the president and many right-leaning Americans support immigration restrictions.
Fortunately, studies have found few links between immigration and crime. In fact, data from the U.S. Department of State shows the opposite. The 10 cities with the highest number of new refugees per capita actually saw a decrease in crime when refugees moved in.
How do refugees affect the economy?
When it comes to the ways that immigrants and refugees affect the economy, there’s usually two topics people focus on: unemployment rates and government benefits.
Many U.S. residents who work in factories, processing plants and other similar places worry that too much immigration could put them out of work. And in a way, they’re right.
Companies that want to pay less than minimum wage sometimes hire undocumented immigrants to fill low-level positions. For example, ICE agents recently raided a Koch Foods processing plant in Mississippi and detained almost 700 undocumented immigrants. Even the president has been accused of employing illegal immigrants at his various properties.
Critics say that the solution for this issue is as simple as prosecuting the companies that hire undocumented workers.
When it comes to using government benefits, studies have found that on average, first-generation immigrants and refugees need more government benefits than native-born citizens. However, the children of first-generation immigrants offset this deficit by using fewer benefits than their native-born counterparts.
What do you think about President Trump’s low refugee caps? Let us know in the polls.