Restoring US refugee program will require substantial funds, commitment from Biden

Border Report

'Strengthening the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is critical for our national security,' report found

This photo of refugees is in a report “Robust Refugee Programs Aid National Security” released Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, on how to successfully expand the U.S refugee resettlement program. (Courtesy Photo)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Biden administration has promised to expand the number of refugees the United States resettles to historic numbers, but that will take massive funding from Congress and require meticulous security and health care precautions during this COVID-19 pandemic, a former national security expert in the Trump administration said Thursday.

Elizabeth Neumann, who served as assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention at the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration, said during an online discussion Thursday that the new administration wants to admit 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021 — 110,000 more than President Donald Trump has agreed. However, doing so will take substantial resources than are currently allotted.

On Thursday, Neuman released a report, “Robust Refugee Programs Aid National Security” with suggestions on how the new administration can safely and quickly admit more refugees into the country. She said that since 2017 the Trump administration has dismantled much of the refugee resettlement system and is currently admitting the fewest numbers since the Refugee Act of 1980 was established.

“The United States’ posture toward immigrants, asylees, and refugees during the Trump administration has damaged our nation’s security. Much of this damage is from xenophobic rhetoric, reducing the refugee ceiling to historic lows, and immigration restrictions cloaked in arguments of security but clearly designed to prevent people from predominantly Muslim countries and poor countries from coming to the U.S.,” the report says.

Security expert Elizabeth Neumann was among panelists who took part in an online discussion Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, regarding U.S. refugee resettlement rates, which was hosted by the National Immigration Forum. (Screenshot)

“Restoring and strengthening the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is critical for our national security. The United States has a storied history as a global leader and beacon of hope in providing refuge to individuals fleeing persecution. Our moral and humanitarian leadership in welcoming refugees sets an example and encourages other countries to do so as well. It is time to reaffirm the long-standing principle that admitting refugees to the United States is in our national interest. Admitting refugees has not only a foreign policy benefit but an economic one as well. Together these benefits strengthen our national security,” the report says.

Suggestions include:

  • Bolster the the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
  • Re-engage with U.S. allies to address the growing numbers of those forcibly displaced.
  • Lay a foundation for future national security benefits.

“There are important suggestions on ways to enhance security in this document but I hope I’m laying out the case that we can be both welcoming and have security,” Neumann said during the panel discussion hosted by the National Immigration Forum. “By being welcoming it helps us with our national security posture oversees, as well.”

Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for immigrants, said refugee resettlement rates under the Trump administration “plummeted to historic lows.”

In fiscal year 2020, only 10,200 refugees were resettled, down from 30,000 in FY 2019, and down from 80,000 the last year President Barack Obama was in office.

Biden, who was vice president under Obama, has pledged to restore the figures and then some. But Noorani says there are an estimated 26 million refugees worldwide in need of assistance, which he says the Trump administration has failed to acknowledge as it closed borders.

“For the United States to say we’re going to settle 15,000 at most is a complete failure,” Noorani said.

Under USCIS regulations, a person may be eligible for refugee status if they have fled their home country because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, the agency says on its website.

Neumann, who said she is a Republican and conservative, cautions that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency is largely fee-funded and with Title 42 border restrictions, as well as refugee resettlement applications mostly halted this past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is quite short of funds. And they must appropriate enough to ensure national security is not compromised with this program.

“Congress is going to have to work quickly to provide the budget and necessary funds to process 125,000 people,” Neumann said. “Don’t play into the nativist’s hands and give them the excuse to shut everything down in four years. Make sure you stay committed to security.”

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