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Trump Reduces Refugees, but Honors Obama Refugee Deal

28 September 2017 Articles News & Analysis


America admitted far fewer refugees than this time a year ago. However, Trump grudgingly honored an Obama-era refugee deal with Australia.

by Edmund Hart


October 1 is the beginning of a new fiscal year for the United States government, and the Trump administration plans to limit refugee admissions to 45,000. The previous fiscal year of 2017 saw 52,261 refugees admitted, with the vast majority coming from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Over the past decade, refugee admission into the U.S. has varied from approximately 40,000 to 75,000. This number spiked in fiscal year 2016 to 84,995 refugees, and former President Barack Obama wanted  admissions to further rise to 110,000 in 2017. Refugee admissions have not been at that level since the early 1990s, and it could have been achieved had the admission rate kept pace with the 9,945 refugees imported in October 2016. Fortunately, the transition of power to the Trump administration saw a persistent reduction in admissions to the point that it reached a trickle. The last month in fiscal year 2017, September, had a paltry admission of 869 refugees.

Trump’s success at adverting a planned refugee surge by Obama is commendable. However, he has not rescinded a previous refugee exchange plan between the United States and Australia. Just 5 days after the 2016 presidential election, Obama stuck a deal with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which up to 1,250 refugees from Australian detention centers on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus are to be imported into the United States in exchange for Australia accepting several dozen refugees currently located in Costa Rica. Australia has also pledged to increase their refugee intake by 5,000 to 18,750 a year. While Trump has referred to the deal as “dumb,” his administration will still honor the diplomatic agreement with the United States’ longtime ally. The first group of these refugees has begun to leave the Australian camps, but leaked phone transcripts from last month between Turnbull and Trump reveal the President’s displeasure with the deal:

“I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.”

The nature of this deal appears curious at first glance. It appears to be a reshuffling of interchangeable refugees that involves increased transportation costs for both countries. However there is a particular reason for Australia wanting such a deal. Australia has a policy disbarring migrant boat arrivals on their mainland. Such arrivals are sent to detention centers on Pacific islands where the migrant can apply for asylum in a third country or return to their homeland. Therefore, Australia refuses to accept the refugees housed on Naura and Manus and is able to pawn them off on the United States through this deal.

Australia’s refusal to accept boat people is a prudent policy decision given the region. In the Spring of 2015, the tremors of Europe’s migrant invasion were beginning and a similar crisis was shaping up in the Pacific. Like the current hysteria whipped up by international journalists over Rohingya Muslims, the press was heavily pushing for the acceptance of Rohingya boat people in Australia during the first half of 2015. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot offered a commonsense rebuttal:

“We are not going to do anything that will encourage people to get on boats. If we do the slightest thing to encourage people to get on the boats, this problem will get worse, not better”

Eventually the international press gave up on pressuring the Australian government and focused instead on Europe, which was readily accepting any and all who washed up on its shores. This in turn led to a swell of boat people seeking migration to Europe’s mainland that continues to this day, while Australia’s policy has kept their potential third world invasion at bay for now.

The natural state in non-White sections of the world, in the absence of a strongman government, is turmoil and sporadic violence. Various ethnic groups engage in tribal warfare over blood feuds that go back decades or even centuries. Governments that do exists are often corrupt, and their reach is usually limited to urban areas within their borders. Western-backed humanitarian efforts in these regions to reduce mortality through medical assistance and food aid has grown populations in the third world to levels that they would not be capable of sustaining on their own accord. Peace efforts led by the UN and backed by economic sanctions has kept chaotic violence in many of these countries to a simmer, but they have done nothing to abate the innate tribal animosity. The recent conflict in Myanmar is an example of what happens when ethnic resentment boils over, and there will likely be more incidents like this around the globe as populations continue to increase.

The losers in ethnic strife are not automatically innocent victims and desirable people to bring into the country. Should the power dynamics be shifted in any of these conflicts, then the other group would be the refugees that are foisted upon stable Western countries. In an ideal world, President Trump would set the refugee cap to zero. The next best thing his administration can do is hamstring the bureaucracy of refugee processing and keep admissions to last month’s level of 869 individuals or aim for an even lower number.