Email #209: “50,000”?

Your House Judiciary Committee approved the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act last week and sent it to the House floor. Although you are one of the bill’s sponsors, I ask that you reconsider your support.

As you of course know, the bill lowers the annual refugee cap from 110,000 to 50,000, the same limit as in the President’s travel ban. Since as of May 26th, 45,732 refugees already entered the country this year, I assume the new proposed limit was reached last month. So the bill would halt the entire program, barring the tens of thousands currently on the waitlist and reneging on the government’s assurances that they would enter. At minimum, the U.S. should honor its commitments to these specific individuals.

But the U.S. should be doing more, not less. In the fiscal year that ended last September, the U.S. resettled 84,995 refugees, the cap then imposed by President Obama. Compare that to the Germany’s 442,000, Hungary’s 174,000, and Sweden’s 156,000 in 2015. These nations are also much smaller than. According to the Pew Research Center, Sweden saw the percentage of its immigrant population grow by 1.5% in 2016. Norway and Austria grew by about 1%. But the U.S. percentage grew by only 1% over the entire decade of 2005-2015.

While that annual 0.1% increase is an inhumane response to the international refugee crisis, it is also un-American. Compare today’s GOP cap to President Reagan’s in 1980. During Reagan’s first year in office, our country took in 210,000 refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis created by Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. While catastrophic, that crisis was smaller than the one facing the world right world. And yet you would reduce our response to less than a quarter of President Reagan’s.

I understand how motivated you are to reverse any policy or regulation associated with President Obama. Since Obama raised the cap from 85,000 to 110,000 in his last year in office, could Congress instead place the limit back at 85,000 or at an intermediate compromise figure of 97,000? While either of those figures is grossly inadequate and pales in comparison to refugee policy under President Reagan, they are at least more reasonable than your bill’s proposed cap. They might also attract some Democrats’ votes in both the House and Senate, without which your bill is doomed. Or are you not interested in governing, but only in making anti-immigrant gestures to stoke your rightwing base?


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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