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Politics | A White House delay blocked refugee admissions in the month of October
by Harvest Prude
Posted 11/07/19, 04:37 pm

WASHINGTON—For the first time in more than 30 years, the United States went an entire month without welcoming any refugees.

President Donald Trump delayed his approval of this year’s refugee cap until Nov. 1, one month after the fiscal year began, so the State Department could not admit any refugees in October. Thousands of refugees who had received government clearance to come to the United States had to delay their moves. The intergovernmental group International Organization for Migration canceled hundreds of flights that were already booked.

World Relief had 126 refugees in the pipeline for resettlement. Instead of greeting some of them at the airport in Spokane, Wash., as planned, the Christian aid group had to tell the refugees’ family members already in the United States that their long-awaited reunions might not happen.

“Thankfully, now that [the cap is] signed, they should be able to come now,” said Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief. “But it took some effort to assure them it wasn’t going to happen again.”

Andrea Simpson, the director of resettlement at World Relief’s Spokane office, shared the story of a 21-year-old Congolese woman who fled her country with her family in 2006. In 2015, after waiting years in a refugee camp in Burundi, the family was processed for resettlement. She agreed to travel separately from her parents and younger brother if needed as a way to speed up the process. While she made it to the states in September, the rest of her family’s flights were canceled.

“Her dad is 75 and her mom is over 60—so she’s concerned about their welfare,” Simpson said. “She’s always been around to make sure her family is fine, so that’s really tough on her.”

Simpson and Yang explained that when the United States clears refugees to enter, they often sell most of their belongings and say goodbye to their communities. “So any flight cancellation is a significant disruption, just like if you were moving your whole life to a new country,” Yang said. “So for them, it caused significant challenges, especially when you don’t know when it’s going to be rebooked.”

CNN reported that the State Department delayed travel arrangements for refugees three times throughout October. The administration lifted the moratorium on admissions on Tuesday.

The last time the United States intentionally paused refugee admissions was in November 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. Even then, the government did not completely halt admissions but narrowed them to a trickle. By the end of that November, President George W. Bush had signed off on a new refugee cap, and the numbers began to pick back up. World Relief said that of the 3 million refugees resettled to the United States since the Refugee Act of 1980, not one has taken the life of a U.S. citizen in a terrorist attack.

Simpson said the Congolese woman’s family has not yet received new airline tickets. She hoped nothing would happen again to derail their arrival in the United States. “This kind of thing just adds to the trauma overall of the people we’re serving,” she said. “If this program is meant to be a humanitarian effort—then this kind of practice is inconsistent with the purpose of the program overall.”

WORLD has updated this story to reflect that the Congolese woman’s family does not have tickets to travel to the United States.

Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Neibergall Associated Press/Photo by Charlie Neibergall Beto O’Rourke in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday

Beto over and out

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas announced on Friday he is ending his bid for the White House. Although he was once viewed as a promising contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, several missteps caused his support to dwindle until he ran out of money to continue.

Democrats initially compared O’Rourke to former President Barack Obama. O’Rourke ran and lost a close race last year against Republican Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat. But the El Paso native failed to develop enthusiastic followers on the national stage.

O’Rourke’s description of himself in a Vanity Fair article as “born to be in” the race for president turned off some voters. He also called for unpopular measures such as requiring gun owners to surrender semi-automatic rifles to the government and stripping the tax-exempt status from nonprofit organizations and churches that did not affirm same-sex relationships. (See Joel Belz’s “Exemption attack” in the latest issue of WORLD Magazine.)

In a post on Medium confirming his decision, O’Rourke said he would continue to “fearlessly champion the issues and causes that brought us together.” A spokesman for his campaign added that O’Rourke will not run for U.S. Senate again in 2020. —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky (file) Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky (file) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

United States says au revoir to Paris agreement

The Trump administration formally filed paperwork to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement effective Nov. 4, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday.

The nonbinding agreement, adopted on Dec. 12, 2015, set international goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. More than 200 countries joined in an attempt to keep the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. A recent study by the environmental activist group Climate Action Tracker found that, so far, countries in the agreement have fallen far short of their commitments and “little to no progress has been detected globally on climate action.”

All Democrats running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination have pledged to rejoin the climate accord. —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Monroe Civic Center in Louisiana on Wednesday

Poll position

President Donald Trump remains highly competitive with the top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential candidates in key battleground states, according to recent polling from The New York Times and Siena College.

The polls suggest the president’s likelihood of winning the Electoral College has remained steady or even grown since 2016, when he claimed victory by triumphing in states such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In those states, Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden by an average of 2 percentage points but is within the margin of error. He leads Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by an average of 2 points and is tied with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. —H.P.

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 11/08/2019 03:44 pm

    I am very very sorry to see Beto out of the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. I think he has everything it would take to be the loser next November. 

  •  Varenikje's picture
    Posted: Wed, 12/04/2019 11:07 pm