How did the “travel ban” affect refugee resettlement?
In January 2017, the president issued an initial executive order – which was later revised – that instituted travel restrictions for individuals from certain countries. In addition, the order specifically sought to suspend the refugee resettlement program and to decrease the number of refugees slated to enter the U.S. in 2017. This executive order was commonly called a “travel ban”.
The “travel ban” was the subject of immense discussion and was challenged in the court system throughout the course of the year. In October 2017, the president issued a new executive order with both new and continued restrictions on the entry of refugees into the United States from eleven specific countries. You can read this most recent executive order in its entirety here. This order was also challenged in federal court, specifically regarding the barring of vetted refugees with a “bona fide” relationship (spouse or children) to someone already admitted to the U.S. The Supreme Court is set to hear the case and make a final ruling by June 2018.
How have the executive orders and resulting “bans” affected refugee resettlement?
The executive orders, the resulting court cases, and the “bans” that went into effect resulted in an exceedingly erratic pattern of refugee arrivals in fiscal year 2017. Predicted arrival numbers for individual resettlement locations were fluctuating on a weekly or even daily basis, putting resettlement agencies in a state of constant disruption and reevaluation. Funding for refugee resettlement agencies is based on refugee arrivals. With far fewer arrivals than expected, resettlement agencies were left scrambling to find adequate funding to maintain staff and to continue offering beneficial programs for the existing refugee community.
The “refugee ceiling” is a number set each year by the president to determine the maximum number of refugees that will be allowed to enter the United States. The original refugee ceiling for 2017 was set at 110,000. The number was revised to 50,000 by the presidential executive orders in early 2017. The actual number of refugees who entered the country in fiscal year 2017 was 53,716.
The refugee ceiling for 2018 was set at 45,000 – the lowest number by far since the formalization of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. In the first fiscal quarter (October 2017 to December 2017), only 5,323 refuges had been admitted to the U.S. If the current pace is maintained, total refugee arrivals will be far below the 45,000 ceiling for the year.
You can view a history of the refugee ceiling for each year since 1980 here.
What was Tucson Refugee Ministry’s response to the initial executive order in January 2017?
We originally released this statement:
“We are saddened and concerned by the recent executive order halting refugee resettlement and banning Syrian refugees from entering the United States. Although the ban has been temporarily lifted, it has already created an atmosphere of fear and misunderstandings about refugees and other immigrants.
The potential of terrorism is a realistic concern, and we acknowledge the fear this generates. While we should put measures in place to protect our nation, we can value security while also welcoming refugees. We can acknowledge that refugees are people fleeing situations of violence, oppression, and injustice, and welcome those individuals who have passed the already strict security screenings. A fear of terrorism ought not rationalize a fear of refugees. We believe that safety and compassion are not mutually exclusive. We stand with refugees around the world who are vulnerable and victimized.
We at Tucson Refugee Ministry remain steadfast in welcoming refugees with love and compassion. We believe that this is what God calls us to do – to love God, and to love our neighbor. We pray that the Church – God’s people – will rise up to be a source of hope to refugees at this time.”