On Wednesday, the U.S. refugee program surpassed the Trump Administration’s 50,000-person cap. Consequentially, many refugees will now be unable to enter the United States.
Thousands of refugees are expected to be impacted by Trump’s cap, as former President Barack Obama planned to resettle 110,00 refugees this fiscal year. About 85,000 refugees were admitted into the U.S. last fiscal year.
Trump lowered Obama’s refugee cap significantly with his ‘travel ban’ executive orders, stating that admitting more than 50,000 refugees “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Going into effect on June 29, the ban declared that the U.S. would suspend refugee resettlement for 120 days. It also would admit refugees on a “case-by-case basis,” using the judgment of the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, and intended to prohibit travel from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.
According to NPR’s Jackie Northam, the State Department expected the number of refugees to reach 50,000 by July 6. “But that date came and went and the number of refugees entering the country wasn’t reached. So the date was extended to July 12,” she continued.
The number of admitted refugees hit 50,086 by Wednesday afternoon. However, the State Department decided to cut off the intake of refugees at the end of the day to keep the process “orderly,” said a department official.
After months of federal courts blocking Trump’s travel ban from being implemented, the Supreme Court announced in June that it would examine the merits of the ban. It also allowed portions of Trump’s second executive order to be implemented, providing that refugees with “bona fide relationships” with the U.S. could still enter the country.
The Trump administration later defined “bona fide relationships” as having parents, spouses, children, adult sons or daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, siblings, fiancés or fiancées, and in-law parents in the U.S. A job offer in the U.S. also was listed as a bona fide tie.
However, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers- and sisters-in-law, as well as resettlement agencies, are not considered to be valid ties.
Refugees without the aforementioned ties will no longer be admitted into the U.S. this fiscal year, even if they have completed the refugee program’s two-year vetting process. The next fiscal year does not start until October.
“[R]efugees have arrived in the U.S. this fiscal year from all over the world — from Syria, of course, but also Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan. It’s really a global humanitarian program, “ said NPR’s Michele Kelemen.
“I’m told thousands could be affected by [the cap]. One refugee resettlement agency told me today that they usually book people about three weeks ahead of time. … It’s not just airline tickets,” she continued. “Refugees have to go through medical screenings. And those clearances don’t last forever. If they rebook for later, they might have to redo all of that medical screening and security checks.”
According to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which resettles refugees in the U.S., the cap “will mean that vulnerable refugees, including those with severe medical needs, torture survivors, unaccompanied refugee children, and persecuted religious minorities will continue to be in harm’s way.”
It also “will have an immediate effect on our ability to conduct the lifesaving work of providing safety and protection,” continued LIRS Vice President Kay Bellor.
With this, several resettlement agencies have gone to court to expand what counts as a ‘bona fide relationship’ to the U.S.
Thousands of refugees who do not have close family members in the U.S. but have already passed the vetting process will not be able to relocate if the qualifications are not changed, say the agencies.