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Can President-Elect Donald Trump Ban Refugees from Syria to the US?

Refugee admissions came to a halt once before after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001

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Supporters place a sign welcoming Syrian refugees is placed at the entrance to the office of the Arizona governor during a rally at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Nov. 17, 2015. VOA
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Nov 18, 2016: As a candidate, President-elect Donald Trump expressed interest in turning away refugees, specifically those from Syria. He said he would ban Muslim immigrants in general (a talking point that remains on his campaign website). And in November, he advocated limiting immigration from “terror-prone regions.”

But could President Trump immediately stop refugees from coming to the U.S.?

The short answer – yes.

“Day 1 he can change things,” says Jeremy Mayer, associate professor of politics at George Mason University.

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With about nine weeks to go before the 45th president is sworn into office, his plan regarding refugees remains unclear. But it is within the purview of the U.S. president to decide which groups of refugees – who by definition are fleeing persecution in their home countries – will make the cut. And he won’t need Congressional support.

“He can’t remove [the Refugee Act of 1980] from the books, but he can certainly reduce the numbers and reduce the numbers from certain regions,” says Kevin Appleby, senior director of International Migration Policy at the Center for Migration Studies in New York.

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Could that mean no refugees would be allowed in after the inauguration on Jan. 20?

“Technically, yeah,” says Appleby. “He has a lot of power in terms of who comes in and the number of people who come in.”

About 14,500 Syrians were approved for resettlement and have moved to the U.S. since last October. The U.N. Human rights agency, UNHCR, estimates nearly 1.2 million refugees are in need of permanent resettlement because they cannot return to their home countries, with Syrians accounting for 40 percent of that worldwide total.

[bctt tweet=”The U.S. has a decades-long history of resettling refugees.” username=””]

Where rhetoric meets policy

The U.S. has a decades-long history of resettling refugees. Without support from Congress, a president cannot change the law at the heart of the refugee program.

But according to that law, the president has broad, unilateral power over how many refugees are admitted, and where they come from. Before the beginning of each fiscal year, the president establishes how many refugees will be allowed into the U.S.

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President Barack Obama raised that figure – the so-called admissions ceiling – from 70,000 to 85,000 in Fiscal Year 2016, largely to accommodate an increase in Syrian refugees. The number of those fleeing civil war and Islamic State militants in the country has continued to multiply. The Obama administration raised the ceiling to 110,000 for the current fiscal year, which extends through September 2017.

Trump could use his executive powers to maintain that level, reduce it, pause the program, or restrict refugees from certain countries. Experts say he could also create a work-around to effectively ban Muslims, for example, by ordering that only certain persecuted groups – say, Christians in Syria or Iraq – be considered for admission, while omitting Muslims from that protected category, though they may have fled the same dangers.

Long pro-refugee tradition

Experts and researchers on refugee policy maintain the U.S. program is respected internationally. The country permanently resettles more refugees through the UNHCR system than any other.

“If the U.S. pulls back, it would be a humanitarian disaster. Other nations won’t necessarily step up to fill the breach,” says Appleby.

“What we know is that throughout the history of the U.S., refugees and immigrants have been welcomed by presidents of both parties, during war and peace,” says Stacie Blake, spokesperson for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “During this global refugee crisis of unprecedented proportion, it is no time to shrink from this leadership.”

Trump said on the campaign trail that the refugee vetting process is nonexistent, an allegation that the current government and non-profit organizations working with refugees have repeatedly disputed.

“I share the questions as to how the rhetoric [from Trump] will be interpreted in the realm of policy and practice. We don’t know,” says Westy Egmont, director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College.

Egmont sees a campaign cycle in which conservative candidates seized on discussions about Islamic State and other acts of violence, and “perhaps misassociated it with refugees, and fed a confusion in the popular mind.”

Refugee admissions came to a halt once before after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But within two years, under new procedures, arrivals began again and hovered around 60,000 to 70,000 throughout much of the last decade.

Despite political backlash against refugees last year, Egmont remains optimistic about the future of the program.

“Most people just do not have opportunity to know refugees personally enough, to know the years they’ve suffered in miserable living environments,” he added. “I believe the long arc of history is just, and the United States will continue to both welcome newcomers and to right any wrong that might be taken in any short term initiative.”

From Oct. 1 until Nov. 16, 14,568 refugees have arrived in the U.S., according to State Department data. Democratic Republic of Congo is the top country of origin, with nearly 3,500 individuals, followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq, each of which had roughly 2,000 refugees admitted to the U.S.

Only in 2015 did the U.S. significantly answer the appeal by UNHCR to increase Syrian refugee admissions, focusing additional personnel on Jordan to process more applications.

The Obama administration says there will be no similar last-minute effort to increase refugee arrivals to the U.S. ahead of possible cuts to the program.

“We have no plans to accelerate the refugee admissions process,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email this week. (VOA)

 

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Donald Trump Negotiates Trade Deal With Japan

Trump to negotiate the trade deal with Japan

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Donald Trump is the President of U.S.
FILE IMAGE- Donald Trump

The US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday he is negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Japan and that his country would only re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) if its member countries offered him a deal he could not refuse.

“I don’t want to go back into TPP. But if they offered us a deal I can’t refuse on behalf of the US, I would do it. In the meantime, we are negotiating, and what I really would prefer is negotiating a one-on-one deal with Japan,” Donald Trump said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

However, Abe stressed his country’s position towards the TPP, saying that it “is the best for both countries,” although he acknowledged the US’s interest in a bilateral trade deal, Efe reported.

Trump said that should his country reach a trade agreement with Japan, there will be talks about the possibility of ending tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that Washington introduced in March to a number of countries, including Japan.

Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Trump added that his primary concern at the moment is the “massive” trade deficit with Japan, which amounted to “from $69 billion to $100 billion a year.”

In fact, the trade deficit with Japan last year stood at $69 billion, far from the $100 billion that the US President claimed, according to the official figures by the US Department of Commerce.

The two leaders made these announcements in a joint press conference at the tycoon’s private club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, where Abe arrived on Tuesday to have meeting with Trump on his four-day visit to the US.

Also Read: China And Russia Accused of Manipulating Their Currencies By Trump

Last week, the White House announced that Trump had asked the US foreign trade representative Robert Lighthizer and the economic adviser Larry Kudlow to “take another look at whether or not a better deal (with the TPP) could be negotiated.”

However, Trump has shown little interest in negotiations that would further complicate the matter, since the other 11 countries that negotiated the original TPP, with the then Barack Obama administration, have already signed their own multilateral deal, the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), or TPP-11.

Shinzo Abe
FILE IMAGE- Shinzo Abe.

On the other hand, during this four-day visit Abe has a special interest in getting an exemption for Japan from the 10 per cent and 25 per cent tariffs that the Trump administration imposes on aluminum and steel imports, respectively.

Trump has granted a temporary exemption until May 1 to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the European Union.

Also Read: White House Denies Any Direct Talks Yet Between Trump And Kim

Japan has been left out of the exempted countries despite being one of the US’s major allies, and for that reason Abe is trying to make use of his visit to secure a place on that list, although Japan barely produces aluminum and the amount of steel exported to the US stands at only around 5 percent of its total steel exports.  IANS