Millennials, unless you have been living under a very large soundproof rock on a remote island in the Pacific, you have heard at least some news on the “global refugee crisis.” But you might have been a bit confused on the details. Here are eight questions that you might have, and the answers so you can have the information you need to be well-informed on the topic.
Wait…what did President Trump say about the refugees?
“We don’t want them here,” President Trump said on Friday, just before signing the executive order on immigrants and refugees. “We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”
Who is President Trump banning from American shores in this controversial move?
In writing, the executive order bans immigrants (and visa holders) from seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia — from entering the United States for 90 days. These countries are known as “Muslim-majority” countries. It also bans all refugee admissions for 120 days, halts Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prioritizes Christian and other religious minority refugees.
In actuality, the ban will affect refugees fleeing from the Middle Eastern conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq (of course), but also refugees from conflicts far removed — places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, El Salvador and Myanmar.
What exactly is a refugee?
The United Nations defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.” The UN also states, “a refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.”
According to the UNHCR (in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 expansion), refugees eligible for resettlement largely fall into seven categories: Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs; Survivors of Torture and/or Violence; Medical Needs; Women and Girls at Risk; Family Reunification; Children and Adolescents at Risk; and those who Lack Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions. Trump’s “Ban on Muslims” makes no distinction between these categories.
So… just how many people are we talking here?
The United Nations estimates 65.3 million people were displaced in 2015. That’s approximately the population of France! This figures included 21.3 million refugees living outside their country of origin, and 40.8 million internally displaced (meaning they are in their country of origin, but have been forced to flee their homes for another region). 51% of refugees are children. And just 1% of all refugees will ever be resettled.
How many refugees has the U.S. taken in so far?
The Obama Administration set a target of 110,000 refugee admissions for fiscal 2017. In the Executive Order last week, President Trump slashed the 2017 number of refugees the U.S. will accept down to 50,000. According to the Pew Research Center (which uses data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center), the U.S. has already taken in 26,000 under the Obama Administration’s rule. That doesn’t leave a lot of room, especially after the seven-country ban by President Trump.
In 2016, by contrast, the U.S. accepted 85,000 refugees total. The increased number of displaced people fleeing conflicts around the globe led to the Obama administration’s heightened ceiling. 2016’s numbers included 12,857 resettled Syrian refugees, along with large numbers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Somalia. More than 50% of those refugees were settled across just ten states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
What is the vetting process for refugees coming to the U.S.?
Refugees are subjected to perhaps the most comprehensive screening of any traveler entering the United States. The vetting process for resettlement to the United States can take up to two years of interviews and security checks.
This includes: registration and interviews with the United Nations, “refugee status” and a referral for resettlement being granted by the UN, then interviews with State Department contractors, multiple background checks, several fingerprint screenings and photos, one or more case reviews by United States Immigration, in-person interviews with Homeland Security, health screenings by the Center for Disease Control, cultural orientation classes, and matching with an American resettlement agency – all before even dreaming of boarding a plane for the United States!
There is then a multi-agency security before leaving for the United States (since a long time passes between the initial screening and departure) and a final security check at an American airport.
Why can’t the refugees just wait 120 days?
As you can tell from the answer above, the process for resettlement is a long one. And that process often comes after years, or decades, of waiting for a chance to come to the United States. In addition, the nature of security clearances, especially in the U.S., requires that the clearances be used in a certain amount of time. If a refugee waits for the ban to expire, their security and medical clearances may expire, meaning that they will have to go through the two-year process again from the beginning. It’s like trying to slip through a closing door only to have it slam in your face.
Are the refugees as dangerous as President Trump says?
In short, no.
Immigrants, especially refugees, are statistically among the least likely people in American society to commit any sort of crimes. In addition, the aforementioned vetting process is extremely thorough.
Great question. Short answer –I don’t know….I don’t think President Trump knows and if you know, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to express your thoughts to me through #NAMB’s email, Facebook or Twitter!
I hope that this article helped clear up some of the confusion about the “global refugee crisis” and President Trump’s ban on Muslims. It’s a difficult and ongoing topic, which will have far-reaching consequences for years, decades and generations to come. The United States has always been the hallowed halls for immigration (including my own parents) and we will hopefully be able to retain that image in the future.
Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.