The Stew Reporting on government and politics

‘We’ll turn them back’

Politics | The White House stands firm on refugee cap
by Harvest Prude
Posted 10/03/19, 05:47 pm

WASHINGTON—The head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday the United States will “turn them back” if persecuted Christians seek to circumvent the refugee cap by finding other ways to immigrate to the country.

A Daily Mail reporter asked acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli on the White House lawn if there was any way for persecuted Christians to bypass the latest refugee quota, which the Trump administration set at a historic low. The immigration czar said they could not apply for asylum at the border under recent policy changes. When the journalist asked whether that meant persecuted Christians “can’t get in at all,” Cuccinelli walked away.

On Sept. 26, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would allow 18,000 refugees into the United States in the coming year. The previous year’s cap was 30,000, and the number averaged about 90,000 per year before Trump became president. The White House said it would reserve 4,000 refugee slots for Iraqis who assisted the U.S. military overseas, 1,500 for people from Central America, and 5,000 for persecuted religious minorities. The remaining 7,500 slots will go to those whom authorities have already cleared for resettlement and who already have family in the country. People fleeing war and persecution who have only recently entered the system have virtually no hope of resettling in the United States with the new cap in place.

The United States policy on refugees dates back to the 1951 United Nations refugee convention. Quotas on accepting people from certain countries kept the United States and other nations from admitting Jews fleeing the Holocaust, and some of them were later killed. After World War II, countries committed not to send people back to places where they had a credible fear of persecution.

Migrants apply for refugee status in locations like refugee camps that are far from U.S. shores. After UN and U.S. vetting, the State Department handpicks refugees for resettlement, making them the most thoroughly screened class of immigrants.

“What happens is that Americans remember visuals of hundreds of Syrians, mainly men, coming into Europe—and to them that’s refugees. [They think of] people coming up to the border, and in their mind that’s refugees,” said Nadine Maenza, vice chairwoman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. “What people don’t necessarily understand is that a refugee is very different than someone who is displaced, and very different from someone who is a migrant who’s looking for work in another place. A refugee is someone who can’t go back. It’s not safe for them to go back.”

The refugee process is distinct from the asylum process, in which unvetted migrants present themselves at a country’s border. The two categories of immigrants receive separate congressional funding, and no cap exists on how many people can receive asylum in a year.

Some in the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have said that reducing refugee acceptance will balance out the overflow of migrants seeking asylum at the border. The asylum backlog has more than 1 million active cases.

“President Trump is prioritizing the safety and security of the American people by making sure we do not admit more people than we can vet,” the State Department said when announcing the lowered refugee cap. “The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle a large number of refugees. Prioritizing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in our country is simply a matter of fairness and common sense.”

Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, noted that refugees usually do not act as an economic drain on the United States, noting that while it costs money upfront to resettle refugees, highly successful programs—many run by nonprofit groups and churches—exist to help refugees quickly find jobs and begin contributing as taxpayers. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2017 that over a 10-year period, “the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive … at $63 billion,” The New York Times reported.

“The border is very controversial. The refugee resettlement program didn’t use to be controversial,” Soerens said. “The things that people are concerned with about immigration—our refugee resettlement program has been the gold standard of how to do this well.”

Three years into the Trump administration, the United States has admitted fewer Christian refugees than its predecessors. Data from World Relief showed that under President Barack Obama, the country resettled an average of 22,055 Christians annually from countries on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of persecution hot spots. In addition, the Obama administration resettled an average of 3,467 refugees per year from other faiths.

If the Trump administration resettles 5,000 persecuted religious believers in the coming year, “that’s an 80 percent decline from the last administration,” Soerens said.

Just days before announcing the reduced cap, Trump spoke at a United Nations event on religious freedom and pledged that America “will always be a voice for victims of religious persecution everywhere.”

But the numbers don’t lie, Soerens said: “We are not protecting international persecuted religious minorities even at the level we historically have.”

Associated Press/Photo by John Locher Associated Press/Photo by John Locher Sen. Elizabeth Warren

2020 Update

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts doubled down this week on calls for the government to break up tech giants. An audio recording leaked Tuesday showed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowing to fight such a move if Warren winds up in the White House.

“If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge,” Zuckerberg told employees in a July recording leaked to tech news site The Verge. “And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. … But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”

Warren, who has gained ground in the polls, hit back on Twitter: “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anti-competitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”

Several national polls showed Warren pulling ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic nomination. The impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump has put a spotlight on the Biden family’s involvement in Ukraine, though Biden has denied any wrongdoing. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll shows Warren with a 6-point lead over Biden, while a Monmouth poll gave her a 3-point edge.

Trump and the Republican Party flaunted a $125 million fundraising haul in the third quarter, claiming it showed widespread support for the president and his policies despite the House Democrats’ impeachment effort.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is taking a break from campaigning after undergoing a heart procedure on Tuesday, led the Democratic candidates in fundraising for the quarter, pulling in more than $25 million. Biden and Warren have yet to announce their fundraising figures for the quarter. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he raised $19 million, while Sen. Kamala Harris of California brought in $11.6 million and entrepreneur Andrew Yang raised $10 million.

Fundraising figures are considered a key test of a candidate’s viability and will factor into whether they qualify to participate in upcoming debates. —Anne K. Walters

Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Republicans respond to Ukraine inquiry

As Democrats pushed forward with their impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, congressional Republican leaders struggled to craft a unified message.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California in a conference call with his caucus on Monday insisted that nothing the president said in a telephone conversation earlier this year with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rose to the level of impeachment, Politico reported, citing people who participated in the call. McCarthy asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to halt the impeachment proceedings in a letter on Thursday.

While some rank-and-file Republicans have defended Trump, many are staying largely quiet about the daily twists and turns in the process from their home districts during a two-week congressional recess. The president, meanwhile, has led his defense with a flurry of tweets denouncing the inquiry, the whistleblower, and key Democrats.

Other GOP lawmakers have taken a more positive stance toward the impeachment proceedings. Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada on Friday drew fire from his party after he seemed to support the inquiry, though he later clarified that, while he supports the oversight process, he had not decided on whether impeachment was warranted. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan also said he supports an inquiry into Trump’s actions but said it should not be focused on impeachment. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa defended the whistleblower who initially brought forward concerns about the president’s actions, calling for the person to “be heard out and protected.”

Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman, tweeted on Monday that the Republican response was like trying to push back ocean waves using a broom. —A.K.W.

Associated Press/Photo by Lawrence Jackson (file) Associated Press/Photo by Lawrence Jackson (file) Joseph Wilson (right) and Valerie Plame in 2007

Joseph Wilson dies

Joseph Wilson, the U.S. diplomat who contradicted President George W. Bush’s 2003 claim that Iraq had sought to build nuclear weapons, died Friday. He was 69. Wilson’s ex-wife, Valerie Plame, said he died of organ failure at his home in Santa Fe, N.M.

Wilson famously challenged the Bush administration’s insistence that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been covertly rebuilding his nuclear program. The diplomat concluded from a trip to Africa that reports of Niger selling raw uranium to Iraq were false, forcing the White House to admit that faulty intelligence has partially spurred the invasion of Iraq. A top State Department official then revealed that Wilson’s wife Plame was a CIA officer. Plame wrote a book about the incident and inspired the 2010 movie Fair Game, in which actor Sean Penn played Wilson.

Plame was Wilson’s third wife. They divorced this year. His brother, two children from his marriage to Susan Otchis, two children from his marriage to Plame, and five grandchildren survive him. —H.P.

Harvest Prude

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

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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/04/2019 10:50 pm

    The biblical role of government is to decide how many immigrants should be allowed in. If we let everyone come who wanted to come in we could see 20% of the world in our country, which would economically destroy ourselves. We would become a starving third world nation, which would not be wise. Biblical wisdom would say we should have limits on immigration.  

    If Christian, would be immigrants, are suffering and experiencing persecution and death, the Church needs to step up and figure out new ways to help these suffering brothers and sisters in Christ! Can companies be started where the business profits be used to hire security guards and train the local people? Can these people be located at safer locations in their country? Can they be relocated to other countries where Christian businessmen can help them with jobs and opportunities? Can we create tax free zones in Alaska where companies can import a percentage of the workers as persecuted Christians or other individuals creating economic growth in Alaska or other states? Can we create economic free trade regions along our borders where we get the lower wages benefit from Mexican/Central American immigrant workers, they get the jobs and the company gets increased profits? Can the US expand into the Artic region or South Pole? Maybe persecuted minoritiy immigrant groups could be relocated to these isolated regions? If we are serious about helping the persecuted Christians and other people groups, we had better start thinking “outside the box”! If God’s people will humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways and work with vision, we could see great revival and blessings for the people of God! 

  • Laura W
    Posted: Sat, 10/05/2019 01:02 pm

    Isn't that a bit of a straw man argument? We don't have to let in everyone who wants to come to let in everyone we can realistically help. And I don't think we're anywhere close to that number right now. We were letting in a lot more refugees prior to Trump than we are now, and our country was doing just fine. The US has a lower population density than much of the world, including generally well-off places like Europe, and we also happen to have a rather low unemployment rate right now. I think our country could afford to absorb a few people more.

    You have a lot of ideas, but I'm not sure how realistic they are. Security guards won't help in places where the government is the problem. Most people tend to relocate within their own country first if they can find somewhere safer, so I doubt that would help very many of the people seeking refugee status. And if they relocate to another country, why not ours? Why is having them live in Alaska any better than having them live anywhere else in the US? It would probably be much easier to get them jobs in less remote places. And how could the US possibly get control of Arctic or Antarctic regions without raising major international issues? And it would be way more expensive to support people living there than in places with more moderate climates. Even scientists studying them don't often live in such extreme climates year-round. And regarding zones at the border where would-be refugees could work, right now the border with Mexico is a particularly dangerous place to be. That would have to change first. Also, many of the jobs that our economy needs to fill are in agriculture, which is very location-specific and can't easily be relocated to a convenient place. This is also true for most of the service industry.

    I'm all for thinking outside the box, but our brothers and sisters in Christ don't need nice ideas, they need concrete plans of action that will actually work. Allowing refugees to settle and find jobs in the US is one such plan. I don't think we should shut it down unless and until we're sure we have another way to help these people, and aren't just sending them back into danger.

  • SamIamHis
    Posted: Tue, 10/08/2019 04:28 pm

    Perhaps President Trump is using what presidential power is availed him to limit the number of refugees, to offset the high number of people being caravanned to the border claiming to seek asylum.   The border patrol, ICE and the entire immigration system are totally overwhelmed.  Saying that private groups have plans in place to help resettle refugees, while true, doesn't ease the burden on the immigration system.  This may not seem to justify reducing refugees but it might put a fire under some of the folks that are so resistant to working toward stopping the flow at the southern border.  Maybe?  Because that would actually take cooperation I am afraid we are far from that happening under any scenario.  Sigh.....