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June 25, 2018

Refugees’ plight


June 25, 2018

The world is experiencing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. The Trump administration’s response has been to reduce the annual number of spots available for refugees from around 70,000 to 45,000, the lowest number since 1980. And the administration is doing whatever it can to ensure that even this lower number won’t be reached.

Syria, still convulsed by civil war, has produced the world’s largest group of refugees: over 5.5 million people. In the last year of the Obama administration, the United States accepted about 15,000 Syrian refugees, which paled in comparison to Germany (not to mention Turkey, Jordan, or Lebanon). This year, as of mid-April, the Trump administration has allowed in 11. “The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said this month.

It gets worse. The Justice Department announced last week that asylum-seekers couldn’t claim gang warfare or domestic violence as reasons to stay in the United States. This comes at a time when displacement because of violence is climbing rapidly in Central America, a trend affecting 16 times more people at the end of 2017 than in 2011. Indeed, many of the people desperately trying to get across the US border, including unaccompanied minors, are escaping not just general violence but very specific death threats.

In The New Yorker, Sarah Stillman reported on her project to create a database of all those whom the US government has deported into harm’s way. The stories included Laura S, who pleaded with US border patrol not to return her to Mexico, where her ex-husband, a member of a drug cartel, had threatened to kill her. US agents ignored her entreaties. In Mexico, Laura S tried to steer clear of her ex-husband. But he was determined, and he eventually succeeded. Her charred skeleton was found in her burned-out car. Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the de facto indifference of the US government to claims of domestic violence has become de jure.

Another method by which the Trump administration is sending people into harm’s way is by rescinding temporary protected status (TPS). Head of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has dutifully implemented the president’s directive to kick out as many people from the United States as possible. Reports USA Today:

Nielsen has now cut TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan, which represents 98 percent of the people covered by the program. That means TPS enrollees from those countries, many of whom have legally lived in the US for nearly 30 years, must return home in the coming months or risk becoming undocumented immigrants.

Imagine FDR not only refusing to accept the MS St Louis but sending tens of thousands of German Jews, who had been living in the United States for decades, back to Nazi Germany.

Trump’s policy on refugees is only part of his larger assault on immigrants, from the Muslim travel ban and the separation of families at the border to his attempt to deport the 800,000 Dreamers. Even the Republican Party is abandoning Trump on the key elements of his anti-immigrant platform. But Trump wants to make America as white as possible – by all means necessary.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘World to Refugees: Go to Hell’.


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