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Both sides weigh in on Trump's refugee cap

Trump's decision to cut refugee numbers drew criticism and support. Here are both sides.



President Trump's administration is reportedly going to cut the amount of refugees admitted to the U.S. by more than half in the upcoming year, in the midst of what is being referred to as the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The administration is expected to drop the cap to 45,000, less than half of the 110,000 level set by former President Barack Obama's administration last year.

When implemented, it will be the lowest cap limit set on the U.S. refugee program since it was instituted in 1980. In addition to dropping the overall levels, the administration is also expected to add an assimilation ability criterion to admittance requirements.

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"To see the U.S. abdicate on what it committed to do really suggests that the U.S. can't be trusted when it makes a formal commitment of this kind," Bill Frelick, director of refugee rights at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview. "And that's something that really shouldn't change dramatically with an election."

He noted that the U.S. is often the trendsetter when it comes to refugee resettlement in the global community. If the U.S. reneges on its commitment, other countries will surely follow, according to Frelick.

"If the U.S. starts building walls and reducing dramatically the number of refugees it's bringing in, that signals to other countries, 'Well, why don't you just do the same?'" noted Frelick. He added that such a precedent will only serve to create a larger refugee problem later on.

Because of Trump's travel ban, this refugee family can't visit a dying relative

Because of Trump's travel ban, this refugee family can't visit a dying relative

Trump's decision comes in the midst of one of the largest refugee crises in modern history. There were 65.3 million people displaced across the globe in 2015, according to the United Nations. That's one out of every 113 people living on Earth.

The problem does not seem to be stopping. Most recently, government repression of the Rohingya minority in Burma has caused nearly half a million people to flee.

Refugees flee violence in Myanmar

Refugees flee violence in Myanmar

Most agree that the suffering of displaced peoples across the world is a tragedy, but there are some who question America's ability to take in such a large group of people.

David Inserra, a policy analyst specializing in homeland security issues for the Heritage Foundation, argued that while it is important the U.S. takes in refugees, additional vetting procedures may not be such a bad thing.

"There is a way to do this in a way on which Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals can agree. For instance, certain ideas in the Constitution, our laws. There are certain mutual principles we should be able to talk about and look for in potential people coming to the United States," Inserra said.

He provided the example of the equality of men and women in the U.S. Should a potential resettlement candidate not accept that, they may not be suited for resettlement, he argued. Inserra noted that some people could of course lie, but that asking neutral questions on basic U.S. beliefs and principles could be a good step in preventing some who may not assimilate into, or accept, American culture.

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"I do think we have a problem. It's not as severe as what Europe has faced," said Inserra. "The United States is a traditional immigrant-receiving nation. We're used to people coming here and becoming part of American society. That though, that tradition, is weakening as of late."

Like it or not, there is little debate that Trump is well within his rights as president to set the refugee cap as he sees fit. Inserra explained that the current system only requires that the president consult with, and report to, Congress.

Both parties have fallen victim to being effectively left out of the process. Congressional Republicans could do nothing when Obama's raised the cap last year and Democrats now find themselves in the same position. And that might be an issue.

"I think that process should include Congress, and not just some empty, 'We have to listen to you and then do what we want.' Congress should actually have a real say in the matter," said Inserra.


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