GOP lawmakers push Trump to reverse course on refugee cuts

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — West Michigan U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton have joined 14 other Republican lawmakers in pressing President Donald Trump to reverse course on a decision to drastically reduce the number of refugees admitted into the country. 

The Trump administration has announced a plan to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 18,000 individuals, down from a cap of 30,000 that was in effect until Sept. 30. The 16 lawmakers argued in a letter to Trump that the United States should uphold its long tradition of opening its doors to refugees who are fleeing violence and religious persecution in other countries. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland

"Since our nation’s founding, the United States has served as a beacon of hope to those suffering from oppression and conflict across the globe," wrote the lawmakers, including Upton of St. Joseph and Huizenga of Zeeland. "The Statue of Liberty perfectly encapsulates our outstretched hand, accepting the world’s huddled masses who yearn to be free. As the world continues to face an overwhelming refugee crisis, we respectfully urge you to uphold our nation’s commitment to assist individuals who have been displaced by violence and strife." 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado, Susan Brooks of Indiana, John Curtis of Utah, Scott Tipton of Colorado, Doug Lamborn of Colorado,  Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Steve Stivers of Ohio, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, John Katko of New York, Dan Newhouse of Washington state, Rob Woodall of Georgia, Chris Stewart of Utah and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. 

The White House has argued that the United States would still have the "most generous immigration system in the world" under Trump's proposed revised immigration policy. 

The White House said in a statement that Trump's proposed refugee ceiling "takes into account the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on our border and the massive asylum backlog, which now includes nearly one million individuals.

"Considering refugees and asylum seekers as part of the same relief effort is an accurate reflection of America’s generous protection-based immigration," the White House said. "The overwhelming backlog is completely unsustainable and needs to be addressed before we accept large numbers of refugees." 

The lawmakers who objected to the new refugee policy countered that there are approximately 20 million refugees worldwide, with more than 50% being children, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

"Among those, roughly eight million refugees are from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo," the lawmakers wrote. "Additionally, another 37,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day due to conflict and persecution in their home countries.

"Continued U.S. leadership is critical in addressing ongoing humanitarian crises caused by civil war and persecution and in assisting displaced persons," the letter continued. "One area where America can lead is by creating and protecting de-escalation zones near war-torn countries and providing humanitarian assistance to people in need. We must also continue to accept and care for refugees here in America." 

The new refugee policy is the latest attempt by Trump to fulfill campaign promises to drastically reduce the number of people who are allowed to enter America. 

Trump said in a statement when the policy was announced on Sept. 26 that his plan is "a responsible approach" that "seeks the eventual return of refugees to their home countries so that they can help to rebuild their own nations.”


Twitter: @Keith_Laing