Senator Leahy’s Statement On President Trump’s Plan To Cut FY 18 Refugee Admissions
Last Friday, President Trump announced that he will slash our refugee admissions to 45,000 in fiscal year 2018 – the lowest annual target since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act. Instead of embracing our moral and legal obligation to address the worst refugee crisis in global history, as has been our tradition for decades, President Trump seems intent on relinquishing our role as the humanitarian leader of the world. The dimming of our beacon is not just a symbolic loss – tens of thousands of human lives are now placed at risk.
There is no rational basis for this shameful retreat. The administration’s own analysis shows that refugees contributed a net benefit of $63 billion to our economy between 2005 and 2014. National security leaders across the political spectrum – including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen – are unanimous in their view that refugees are the most stringently vetted travelers to the United States. And our commitment to welcoming refugees plays a critical role in strengthening our alliances in areas of conflict.
The President stands alone in his disregard for the staggering suffering we are witnessing around the world. Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee – on which I serve as Vice Chairman – unanimously approved a funding bill that demonstrates our unwavering commitment to refugees. It fully funds offices that are critical to the continuity of refugee programs, and even provides a $50 million increase to the State Department’s refugee assistance and resettlement missions. Our bipartisan bill repudiates any claims by President Trump that the United States is unwilling to commit the resources required to fund a refugee program that honors our history as a refuge for the persecuted. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation has called on President Trump to set annual refugee admissions “based on historical refugee levels” – which have never dropped below 67,000 per year since the beginning of the Reagan administration.
I am proud that my own state of Vermont has welcomed and resettled approximately 7,500 refugees since fiscal year 1989. The City of Rutland was preparing to resettle an additional 100 refugees mainly from Syria last year and this fiscal year, until the Trump Administration inexplicably halted certain refugee admissions and announced drastic reductions to the refugee resettlement program.. Vermont and other states stand ready to do more to address this global crisis, but the leader of our country is shamefully directing them to do less.
Presidents have an obligation to protect our nation’s fundamental values. Presidents of both parties have long understood this. They have not forsaken our history as a nation founded by enterprising individuals seeking refuge and freedom from persecution. And they have ensured that our policies do not betray our proud tradition as the humanitarian leader of the world.
This decision illustrates that President Trump is misinformed and that he has caved to the counsel of xenophobic voices seeking to hollow out our refugee program. By shutting our doors to thousands of innocent human beings fleeing persecution and tyranny, he misunderstands the history of the country he was elected to lead. I hope that he reconsiders his callous decision, as the law in fact empowers him to do in light of emerging humanitarian concerns. Nothing less than our nation’s identity as an unwavering beacon of hope during the world’s darkest chapters is at stake.
Office of Senator Patrick Leahy