The Stew Reporting on government and politics

A door swinging shut?

Politics | White House cuts refugee program even deeper
by Harvest Prude
Posted 9/20/18, 03:09 pm

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration announced Monday it may reduce the annual number of refugees allowed into the United States from the already historic low of 45,000 to 30,000 in the next fiscal year. Some evangelical leaders are pushing back, saying the reduction will harm persecuted Christians and other religious minorities and is a step backward for the United States’ humanitarian efforts.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the new refugee ceiling of 30,000, he said security concerns and a “massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense” as a reason for the cut.

The refugee and asylum systems are distinct, but resettled refugees do not enter a country until they have been approved, while asylum seekers cross into a country and then retroactively apply for asylum. Asylum seekers face deportation if their case is rejected.

The 30,000 refugee ceiling announced for the 2019 fiscal year is the lowest since President Ronald Reagan signed the Refugee Act of 1980 into law. The Refugee Act gave the president the authority to annually set a refugee ceiling that considers humanitarian concerns and foreign policy interests, and it stipulated that Congress should be consulted in the decision. Typically, refugee resettlement has enjoyed bipartisan support.

As of last Friday, the United States had admitted about 20,000 refugees for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 20, well short of its 45,000 ceiling. The International Crisis Group found that the low numbers were in part due to bureaucratic slowdown.

Historically, the United States led the world in welcoming refugees. Since 1980, it has taken in more than 3 million out of the total 4 million refugees resettled worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center. But in 2017, other countries for the first time resettled more refugees than the United States—double the number. The United Nations Refugee Agency cut its resettlement referrals by more than half in 2016, attributing the cuts to “a decline in resettlement quotas.”

This continuing trend raises the question of whether the slashing of refugee admittance in the United States will spur a global decline. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert asked other countries to “step up and do more.” Currently, more than 68 million people are displaced due to war, violence, and persecution, according to the United Nations.

Some Christian leaders are lobbying to have the cap raised significantly, citing humanitarian concerns and the plight of persecuted Christians in particular. In a letter to the Trump administration, the Evangelical Immigration Table asked for the refugee ceiling to be raised to 75,000. “Cuts to our refugee admission program affect all persecuted religious minorities, but these cuts significantly impact [Christians],” the letter read. More than 400 pastors and Christian leaders signed the letter.

Persecuted Christians will be harmed by this “closed door,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He called the dwindling ceiling, “far below the level where America could and should be in leading the world in compassion for those in peril.”

Congress will review the proposal before sending it to the White House for President Donald Trump’s approval.

Associated Press/Photo by Rich Pedroncelli Associated Press/Photo by Rich Pedroncelli A man walks by a protest sign in Sacramento, Calif., in August.

Giving openly

Non-profit organizations involved in political campaigns had to begin disclosing their donors this week after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to stop a lower court’s ruling from taking effect. The end of the long-standing policy, which shielded the identities of most donors, pleased advocates of campaign reform but also raised free speech concerns as midterm congressional elections approach in November.

Decades-old Federal Election Commission regulations said advocacy organizations, such as pro-life or anti-tax groups, advocating on behalf of or against specific candidates did not have to report the names of most of their donors.

The Supreme Court declined late Tuesday to stay a ruling by a federal district court that overturned that rule. The case dates to a 2012 effort by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) to discover the identities of donors behind a push by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS group for a Republican candidate in Ohio. CREW, along with an Ohio voter, had asked the FEC to require Crossroads to disclose the names of its donors, but the FEC found Crossroads was in compliance with federal regulations. The advocacy group filed suit against the FEC and Crossroads in 2016.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., last month overturned the FEC regulation, saying it “blatantly undercuts the congressional goal of fully disclosing the sources of money flowing into federal political campaigns.” Advocacy groups must now disclose the identity of anyone who contributes more than $200 for political purposes.

Crossroads and the FEC had hoped to prevent the lower court’s ruling from taking effect until they could appeal to avoid a change in rules just as the midterm election campaigns ramp up. Chief Justice John Roberts had issued a temporary stay, but the full court declined to continue it.

Crossroads has argued the move would force it and other groups “to choose between exercising their long-protected free speech rights and thereby incurring severe legal risks—including potentially violating their donors’ privacy—or remaining silent.”

CREW said the development will shed light on the influx of so-called “dark money” in politics behind much of the television advertising that floods airwaves ahead of elections.

“This is a great day for transparency and democracy,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We’re about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections.”

The Institute for Free Speech, which advocates for fewer campaign finance restrictions, claimed the decision creates serious privacy, operational, and legal risks.

“It’s unfair to change rules about political speech in the middle of a campaign, and many organizations have already run [ads] during the current campaign,” the institute said. —Anne K. Walters

Associated Press/Photo by Scott Stewart Associated Press/Photo by Scott Stewart President Ronald Reagan in 1985

A president’s plea

In the summer of 1982, President Ronald Reagan penned a letter to his father-in-law, Loyal Davis, just days before the then-atheist’s death. Washington Post journalist Karen Tumulty obtained the letter from the Reagan Library.

“Dear Loyal, I hope you’ll forgive me for this, but I’ve been wanting to write you,” Reagan wrote. “I’m aware of the strain you are under and believe with all my heart there is hope for that.”

Reagan said that he knew of his father-in-law’s doubt, but the president shared his faith in the four-page letter regardless. He called the life of Jesus Christ a miracle and wrote, “Either he was who he said he was or he was the greatest faker & charlatan who ever lived. But would a liar & faker suffer the death he did when all he had to do to save himself was admit he’d been lying? … For two thousand years he has had more impact on the world than all the teachers, scientists, emperors, generals and admirals who ever lived, all put together.” Reagan ended the letter with this admonition: “We’ve been promised this is only a part of life and that a greater life, a greater glory awaits us … all that is required is that you believe and tell God you put yourself in his hands.”

He signed the letter, “Love, Ronnie.”

Davis died Aug. 20, 1982, at the age of 86. His daughter, Nancy Reagan, was at his bedside at the time of death. According to Tumulty, two days before his death Davis asked for and prayed with a hospital chaplain. —H.P.

Bucks to blast off

The Trump administration’s proposed Space Force will cost taxpayers an estimated $12.9 billion over the next five years, according to a United States Air Force report.

The Sept. 14 report from U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson detailed the first public cost estimate for creating the sixth military branch. The first year of the Space Force, which will include building its headquarters, is expected to cost $3.3 billion. Creating the Space Force will require approval from Congress. —H.P.

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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