Donald Trump’s Refugee Policy Is Bureaucratic Sadism
The crushingly low ceilings act to limit the overall numbers, but Trump also keeps refugees out—now, and for years to come—by setting up barriers that make it just about impossible for them to complete their applications. Because of the administration’s policy of “extreme vetting,” refugees—who have abandoned their homes in poor, chaotic countries; who languish in strange lands, in camps or makeshift housing; who have already been fingerprinted, biometrically examined, interviewed, and background-checked more thoroughly than any other human beings on Earth—now have to provide phone numbers and addresses for every residence in which they lived for more than 30 days during the previous decade, as well as contact information for all close relatives. These are rules—kept secret until IRAP sued to force their disclosure and detailed them in a new report—that most Americans, who are lucky to live in a country with street addresses, would have trouble following.
Given that Trump’s answer to these questions is no, why doesn’t he just shut the refugee program down? Perhaps because his evangelical supporters advocate for the resettlement of persecuted religious minorities, most of them Christians. Last year, 97 percent of those slots were filled. Like everything else in the Trump administration, the refugee program has been thoroughly politicized.
Refugees are among Trump’s favorite scapegoats. They’re his reelection campaign’s migrant caravan. After Joe Biden promised to raise the ceiling to 125,000 in his first year as president, higher than it was under Obama, Trump went after refugees last month at the start of a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, a state that has resettled thousands of Somalis, including one of Trump’s prime targets, Representative Ilhan Omar. The president got a barely masked, COVID-spreading crowd of thousands stoked as they squeezed together at an airfield:
One of the most vital issues in this election is the subject of refugees. You know it. You know it perhaps better than almost anybody. Lots of luck. You having a good time with your refugees? … Every family in Minnesota needs to know about Sleepy Joe Biden’s extreme plan to flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia, from other places all over the planet. Well, that’s what’s happened, and you like Omar a lot, don’t you? Biden has promised a 700 percent increase in the manifesto with Bernie, right? A 700 percent increase in the importation of refugees from the most dangerous places in the world, including Yemen, Syria, and Somalia. Congratulations, Minnesota. A 700 percent increase. Good luck, Minnesota … Sleepy Joe will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp. Think of it. 700 percent increase. So you’re not happy now? … Biden will overwhelm your children’s schools, overcrowd their classrooms, and inundate your hospitals. That’s what’ll happen. Biden has even pledged to terminate our travel ban to jihadist regions, jihadist regions. They’ve already been doing that to you, haven’t they? Opening the floodgates to radical Islamic terrorists.
When I was covering the war in Iraq, I got to know a number of refugees. Some were displaced inside Iraq, others scattered to neighboring countries, waiting to be resettled in Europe or the U.S. I met them in crowded apartments where kids went without school and parents had no work. Months turned into years while they waited for an email or a letter from an international or American official. When one arrived, it usually contained byzantine language offering no clear resolution, only piling new demands on old ones that the family had met several times over—more employment history, another interview, another medical exam because the earlier one had expired during the wait.