By Andrea Gillespie
Six months have passed since President Donald J. Trump signed his first executive order on January 27 barring refugees from the United States for 120 days and slashing the number of annual admissions to 50,000.
A series of court battles challenging the ban and a revised executive order followed. Even with wins in the courts, the ban has had horrific consequences.
Compiled from a recent Human Rights First report that tracked resettlement trends, here are the top 10 impacts of the Trump Administration’s refugee ban.
1. Syrian refugees are being left behind.
U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees has fallen by 80 percent. This is such a significant decrease that Syria, the country with the largest global resettlement needs, is no longer in the top five countries of origin for U.S. refugee resettlement.
2. The refugee ban has disproportionately targeted Muslims.
There has been a 76 percent decrease in the number of Muslim refugees resettled since the order, and the number of refugees resettled from the seven targeted Muslim-majority countries has dropped by 77 percent.
3. The United States broke its promise to Iraqi interpreters who served with the U.S. military, and more.
In 2008, Congress passed the bipartisan Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2008, creating a priority resettlement route for Iraqis who risked their lives as translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, and in other supportive roles to the United States to seek protection following threats as a result of their work. However, many of the nearly 60,000 Iraqis awaiting processing—including Ali, who is targeted due to his brother’s assistance to the United States military—are left in legal limbo abroad.
4. There is a growing gap between global resettlement needs and available spaces.
An estimated 10 percent of refugees require resettlement, but less than one percent of refugees are resettled annually. Without U.S. leadership, global resettlement will likely fall by at least 30 to 40 percent in 2017.
5. Resettlement cases in processing will be delayed for years due to the expiration of security and medical screenings.
Resettlement experts in Africa have reported that as a result of the cuts and resulting delays in U.S. resettlement processing, it will take perhaps five years or more to process refugee cases for resettlement. Prior to the order, the average length of refugee processing was two years—already a long wait for refugees living in dangerous and vulnerable situations.
6. At-risk refugees, including children, with medical emergencies are stranded.
Sham Aldaher, a two-year-old born with only one eye and a seriously disfigured face, and her parents fled Syria in search of refuge. They underwent interviews, extensive vetting and cleared security checks for U.S. resettlement. While waiting, Sham had to have two urgent surgeries to receive an eye prosthesis. Now, even though she has completed the process, this two-year-old and her family are blocked from resettling in the United States.
7. Orphaned children are more at risk of trafficking and sexual violence.
A 16-year-old Eritrean girl arrived in Egypt in April 2016 after fleeing her country to escape forced conscription. While in transit to Egypt, she was held by traffickers in Sudan for nearly three months and was repeatedly violated before she was able to find UNHCR. The United States typically considers cases of unaccompanied children for resettlement, but Trump’s executive orders delayed her case. Since then, the child was raped again, resulting in pregnancy. She contemplated suicide and remains at risk in Egypt without an option for resettlement.
8. LGBT refugees are targets of violence in countries of first asylum.
After fleeing persecution in Uganda, a gay refugee struggled to survive in Kenya, where LGBT refugees face grave risks. His resettlement interview with the United States, scheduled for February 2017, was cancelled due to the first executive order. In the wake of the second order and the Trump Administration’s 50,000 resettlement cap, his resettlement case is on hold. He is unable to even leave his apartment in Kenya due to risks of violence and harassment because of his sexuality.
9. The actions of the United States have emboldened and supported violations of international law, including the Hungarian government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
Speaking on February 7, 2017, the chief Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovacs said, “A change of perspective in the U.S. helped others to respect the Hungarian position.” He continued, “The world is moving to a pragmatic era and we believe that the new U.S. government’s approach will ease the tension” over changes to asylum policy. The Hungarian parliament subsequently passed a mandatory detention law for asylum seekers on March 7, 2017.
10. National security advisors have spoken out against the bans.
According to officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations, the bans have alienated allies who assist the United States in defeating ISIS in the region and host large numbers of refugees—like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Officials have also noted that the rhetoric of the bans reinforced terrorist propaganda and endangered troops in the field, making it harder to find interpreters and those willing to assist Americans overseas.
The damage done by the Trump Administration’s executive orders is devastating. The courts should revoke the executive order so the United States can stand once again as a beacon to those searching for freedom.