Friday March 23, 2018
Home Politics Can President...

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

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

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.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

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.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

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.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

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)


Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

Next Story

Indian Politics and Polity Shift to the Right and Away from Europe

India’s 2014 election was a clear rejection of the long serving Indian Congress Party and its soft socialism

Rahul Gandhi becomes president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi steps down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress, Wikipedia

By Dr. Richard Benkin, Chicago

  • India is world’s largest democracy
  • Indian politics is always under international coverage
  • India is witnessing political shift due to its leaders and their transformation

The great democracy was electing its national leader.  It was a fight between the party in power with a leftist tinge; and the more conservative opposition with its upstart candidate. The media was rooting openly for the leftist candidate and would stop at almost nothing, even vilifying the conservative upstart as evil, not just wrong.  The candidate on the left seemed to feel entitled, that being head of state was all in the family.  And, as you probably have guessed, that candidate lost.  You might or might not have guessed that, despite the familiarity to American voters, this was not the United States.  It was India.

will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
Narendra Modi’ win in 2014 elections stunned the whole nation. Wikimedia Commons

India’s 2014 election was a clear rejection of the long serving Indian Congress Party and its soft socialism.  Its candidate, then 43 year old, Rahul Gandhi, was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Prime Ministers; and though India is the world’s largest democracy, not the world’s largest monarchy, it was “his turn” to take the nation’s top spot.

The similarities between the Indian Congress Party and the US Democrat Party stop, however, with how the two parties and their dynastic candidates reacted to their defeats.  While there is ample evidence that the Democrats are moving further to the left, India’s Congress, and especially its former candidate, seem to have taken the lessons of their defeat to heart.  Moreover, we too often gauge a polity’s position on the left-right spectrum by which major party dominates.  In the Indian case, however, we get a deeper understanding by examining changes in the out of power party.

Also Read: Rahul Gandhi Elected as President of Congress Amidst Celebration of Followers

The Indian National Congress Party was founded in 1885 and, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, was the principal leader of the movement that led to India’s independence from Great Britain in 1947.  It has ruled India for roughly 57.5 of its 70.5 years as a modern nation (81.6 percent of its entire existence).  Congress fashions itself left-center party with “democratic socialism” as one of the party’s guiding principles; and over the years, I have written a number of articles, criticizing what I believe to be weak Congress policies.  It has followed the lead of soft left European parties, in contrast with the Indian nationalism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Amitabh Tripathi is a well-known Indian political commentator.  I caught up with him in New Delhi in February and asked him about how the Congress Party was reacting to its crushing 2014 defeat.

RB:  So, was the 2014 election a strong statement about traditional Indian politics?

AT:  Definitely.  Till 1991, Indian politics was at a status quo with socialist, leftist, and communist stances prevalent.  After 1991, right wing politics emerged as a political force.  Since then, Indian politics has shifted to the right; and from time to time for more than two decades, left and right engaged in direct political confrontations.  Congress led the coalition of leftists; and the BJP emerged as the leader of the right.  The BJP ruled the country for six years (1998-2004) and its policies swung to the right, including a vocal and unapologetic relationship with Israel, moving forward strategically with the United States, and exploring India’s role in the Indian Ocean to contain China and its imperialistic ambitions. When the BJP lost power to a Congress led coalition in 2004, the Indian polity again shifted left; and Congress became a complete replica of its 1960s self—a totally leftist party.

Rahul Gandhi becomes the president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi Steps Down
Rahul Gandhi traveled to many Hindu temples during the campaign (something he avoided in his unsuccessful 2014 run). It is believed he also did not go to any Muslim places of worship, which was unusual for any top leader from the Congress Party.

In 2014, when elections occurred, the Indian polity moved on to the right on issues from economics to culture.  Before the election, Congress did not read the undercurrent of the people and moved even further left on those issues.  This has been widely acknowledged as the reason for its crushing defeat.

RB:  So it was a real shift to the right among Indians, which sounds a lot like our own experience in 2016.  In the US, the losing Democrat party has reacted by moving further left.  Has India’s Congress tried to understand the reasons behind its defeat?

AT:  The latter statement is correct.  Immediately after losing the elections, Congress realized it was not simply an electoral defeat.  Its ideological stagnation led to the historical loss.  And it tried to rectify that and re-invent itself.

RB:  How have they done that?

AT:  I observed it on three fronts, three major decisions.  First, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the former party President and current head of the dynastic family, took an almost “voluntary” retirement.  She had become the face of hard left and anti-Hindu policies.

RB:  Sounds familiar.  Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has become the same here, but she does not seem to be going anywhere.

AT:  Second, in ten years of Congress rule, they openly flaunted themselves as very pro-Muslim, which irritated the majority Hindus in India.  But last year, in prestigious elections in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Sonia Gandhi did not address a single rally.  Plus, Congress Party Vice-President (now President) Rahul Gandhi traveled to many Hindu temples during the campaign (something he avoided in his unsuccessful 2014 run).  We believe he also did not go to any Muslim places of worship, which was unusual for any top leader from the Congress Party.  Some people might say it was an opportunistic political move, but I would say it was a well-calculated shift in the party to shed the tags of pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu.

Third, since the days of the freedom movement before independence, and during the rule of Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi (almost the entire period from independence to 1984); Congress followed the policy of demonizing the wealthy and glorifying the poor.  It seems, however, that Rahul Gandhi wants the population to know that he strongly favors the wealth generating middle class and capitalism; he opposes only crony capitalism.  He says the poor should aspire to become wealthy through greater opportunities and employment.

RB:  What about Rahul Gandhi himself?  Does he have a future in Indian politics?

AT:  Since 2014, we have watched his evolution from entitled politician to serious politician who understands the people’s aspirations and country’s need.  Perhaps most importantly has been his understanding of foreign policy and India’s role and responsibilities at a global level.  He has said that he’s ready to take the responsibility of the office of Prime Minister if elected, and he could make a formidable candidate.

Raul Maino
Rahul Gandhi can potentially cause a shift in Indian politics due to his transformation. Twitter

RB:  I’ve heard a lot of people talking positively about him and his growth in my time here.  I believe you also told me he has spent a lot of this time really listening to people from all classes and communities.  Thank you, Amitabh ji, it’s always a pleasure to hear your thoughts, and always a pleasure to be in India.

In a larger context, we have seen a reaction against decades of leftist overreach worldwide:  Donald Trump’s election; Brexit; and a number of elections in Europe rejecting the European Union and loss of national identity (most recently in Italy).  There has been little focus on Asia perhaps because it has not been in the orbit of traditional left-right equations in the West.  India, however, has become a major player on the world stage under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  It has historical conflicts with both Pakistan and China, and can be a major bulwark against Chinese expansion westward.  India also has strengthened its alliances with both the United States and Israel while maintaining relations with Iran.  The rightward movement there is highly significant in plotting future Indian geopolitical moves.

[Richard Benkin is a human rights activist and author with a strong concentration in South Asia.  Amitabh Tripathi appears often on Indian television and in other media.  He is also a contributor to What is Moderate Islam, edited by Richard Benkin.  This interview was conducted in New Delhi on February 27, 2018, while Benkin was there as part of a recently-concluded human rights mission.]