By Joe Guzzardi
On refugee issues, two recent successes are encouraging, and may lead to a sensible approach to how America should resettle migrants. This week the United States, at President Donald Trump’s insistence and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s support, withdrew from the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration (GCM). In his statement, Tillerson said that because the GCM might accelerate migration, it could undermine U.S. sovereignty, and thwart America’s effort to enforce immigration laws, an opinion Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley seconded.
Then, in an unrelated event, the Supreme Court upheld the president’s refugee travel ban which will allow the restrictions against the identified nations to take full effect even as two lower federal courts consider challenges based on the president’s alleged anti-Muslim bias.
Getting out of the dubious GCM and scoring a Supreme Court 7-2 victory with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting represent two big, much-needed wins, not only for the Trump administration, but also for Americans who have grown increasingly skeptical about unwieldly and dangerous U.S. refugee policy.
The GCM is not some long-ago etched-in-stone compact to which the U.S. is indefinitely committed. Rather, the GCM was President Obama’s parting grand refugee-expansion gesture to the UN General Assembly, made just a month before the 2016 election. President Obama endorsed admitting 110,000 refugees, well above the 70,000 historic average. Without question, had the U.S. remained in the GCM, the UN would have proposed more migration, inconsistent with President Trump’s wish to slow resettlement to 50,000 annually, a cap he proposed in September.
Little is understood about how ineffective resettlement abroad is, and how little it contributes to a lasting, global solution. Last year, The New York Times analyzed resettlement policies, and determined that less than one percent of about 20 million refugees are relocated. More than half of the one percent comes to the U.S. Even were the U.S. to increase its refugee intake ten-fold, it would not make a dent in the worldwide crisis. But in the process of increasing the refugee intake, the U.S. population would dramatically increase, today and in future years as the refugees petition their family members to join them.
Many aid groups and some governments recognize that the most meaningful solution is to help refugees close to where they live so they can safely return home at the earliest moment. The most cost-effective, humanitarian method to address refugee crises is for the U.S. to donate funds and medical assistance to refugee camps located near the displaced migrants’ home countries.
A Center for Immigration Studies analysis found that, on average, each Middle Eastern refugee the U.S. resettles costs an estimated $64,370 in the first five years, or $257,481 per household. But based on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) request for $1,057 annually to care for each Syrian refugee in countries neighboring Syria, 61 refugees could be helped in one year.
The UNHCR acknowledges that the U.S. is the world’s top resettlement country. Since 1975 every state has accepted refugees – more than 3 million in total. Continuing to be accepting is important. But so is helping millions of needy Americans and providing for homeland safety and security. Help refugees help themselves and their embattled nations. Get them home as quickly as possible to expedite the rebuilding process.
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