Opinion | Refugee Resettlement Is Close to Collapse. That Was Trump’s Plan.


Advocates like Mr. Hetfield know what the program can offer people who have endured the trauma of war. Marwa Al Ibrahim, a refugee from Iraq, now works as the integration program supervisor at Refugee Services of Texas in Fort Worth.

Ms. Al Ibrahim worked as a translator for a French news agency in Baghdad. Her family was targeted in a car bombing that nearly killed her father. After the attack, the family applied for refugee status in 2008. In 2014, they were finally resettled in Fort Worth. Resettlement gave them a chance to be safe at last.

An entire ecosystem works together to support refugees like Ms. Al Ibrahim. Resettlement agencies partner with faith communities, volunteer networks, hospitals and employers in cities all over the country, to provide them with basic needs like housing, medical care and job skills. They help with immigration and legal services, cultural orientation, and trauma-informed mental health care. It is the unlikeliest thing — a bureaucratic program laced with good will and hope.

Yet the Trump administration has used every tool in its arsenal to slow or stop resettlement: bureaucratic, rhetorical, political and financial. In other areas where it has tried to limit immigration — like ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the administration met at least some opposition and limitations.

But when it comes to resettlement, it has been extraordinarily successful, bringing the program to the edge of collapse.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that nearly 80 million people were displaced globally in 2019. Of course, it’s not only up to the United States to resettle refugees — in 2018, 25 countries worked with the U.N. refugee agency to receive placements.

Of the growing number of displaced people, over 1 million are eligible for refugee resettlement in 2021. But the Trump administration slashed the admissions ceiling in fiscal year 2020 to only 18,000; as of July 7, according to Church World Service, only 7,544 refugees had actually been admitted.



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