Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed resettling up to 30,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019 and processing over 280,000 asylum seekers. He said, "They will join the over 800,000 asylum seekers who are already inside the United States and who are awaiting adjudication of their claims...In consideration of both U.S. national security interest and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country."
Sec. Pompeo said refugee resettlement is one of many humanitarian programs the U.S. operates. The 2019 reduction should be viewed in that context. The following are excerpts from his remarks yesterday:
"Since 2000, over one and a half million people have been admitted as refugees or granted asylum in the United States of America. Since 2001, the U.S. has permanently admitted 4.1 million total lawful permanent residents from refugee-producing nations...(H)undreds of thousands...have received temporary and permanent humanitarian protection under other immigration categories such as victims of trafficking, humanitarian parole, temporary protected status, and special immigrant juveniles...(T)otal U.S. humanitarian assistance worldwide was more than $8 billion in FY 2017, more than any other country.
"Some will characterize the refugee ceiling as the sole barometer of America's commitment to vulnerable people around the world. This would be wrong...This year's refugee ceiling reflects the substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum in our country, leading to a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense. The daunting operational reality of addressing the over 800,000 individuals in pending asylum cases demands renewed focus and prioritization. The magnitude of this challenge is unequaled in any other country.
"This year's refugee ceiling reflects our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people...Already this year, we have seen evidence that the system previously in place was defective. It allowed a foreign national to slip through who was later discovered to be a member of ISIS, as well as other individuals with criminal backgrounds. The American people must have complete confidence that everyone granted resettlement in our country is thoroughly vetted.
"As President Trump established in the National Security Strategy and in his speech last year at the United Nations General Assembly, we are maintaining our enduring humanitarian commitments by working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their home countries as possible.
"The United States is steadfast in prioritizing a course of action that enables the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries if and when conditions permit -- a solution that most refugees prefer.
"A focus on helping refugees overseas also allows us to maximize our resources. We can house, feed, and provide medical care for hundreds of thousands more refugees closer to their homes and do so more rapidly than we could possibly do here in the United States.
"The improved refugee policy of this administration serves the national interest of the United States and expands our ability to help those in need all around the world. We will continue to assist the world's most vulnerable while never losing sight of our first duty, serving the American people. We are, and continue to be, the most generous nation in the world."
Read Sec. Pompeo's full remarks here.
Updated: Tue, Oct 2nd 2018 @ 1:55pm EDT