In July, I wrote a column making the case for zero refugees next year and for the right of local communities to reject refugee resettlement. Well, the administration just announced they are lowering the refugee cap for FY 2020 to 18,000 from the current level of 30,000 and will give local communities veto power over resettlement. Not a bad outcome for conservatives who are used to losing most policy battles.
First, let’s tackle the refugee cap. The Left is apoplectic over President Trump lowering the refugee cap to the “lowest level” ever. While this is technically true, the refugee cap should have really been set to zero because we have a record number of refugees in all-but-name-only at our border in our other humanitarian immigration pipelines.
The trick of our immigration system is that there are about a dozen categories that are similar to refugees in the sense that they are humanitarian visas, but only one actually holds the name. Thus, it’s disingenuous to ask for more refugees while ignoring the record numbers of other categories. We’ve had almost a million people come to our border, several hundred thousand of whom have been settled into our communities at a huge cost to local governments. There is now a 1 million person backlog in immigration courts, quadruple the level from a decade ago. Asylum, if anything, is even more burdensome on the nation than refugees because we don’t select or vet them; they simply show up on our doorstep.
The notion that we would not lower the refugee cap when we have 1 million existing refugees for DHS officials to process and monitor makes no sense. As USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement, “The proposed FY 2020 refugee ceiling, as outlined by the president, takes into account our existing and anticipated humanitarian workload on all fronts and fulfills our primary duty to protect and serve U.S. citizens.”
Moreover, the media is forgetting the fact that there is another category of refugees resettled by the Office of Refugee Resettlement; namely, “unaccompanied alien children.” This past year, we had a record number of them and it will likely reach 70,000 by the end of the year. Historically, 70,000 was the typical number of refugees we’ve taken in per year. As such, whereas this year it won’t come from the traditional refugees from the Eastern Hemisphere, they already came in the form of Central American teens, which has already chewed up the agency’s entire budget. The American people should not be on the hood for double dipping.
This analysis doesn’t even factor in the several hundred thousand people that are here on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), even though their status should have expired years ago. There are also record number of applicants for U visas (victims of crime who are often perpetrators of crime or gang members themselves) and many other forms of humanitarian relief, from T Visas and Special Immigrant Juvenile status to VAWA and parole. Currently, there are 244,000 pending U visa applications, a 20-fold increase since the beginning of the Obama administration!
Plus, we have record numbers of green cards handed out every year. Between green cards and long-term visas, there are 1.8 million new immigrants coming every year, unparalleled in our history. We have now reached a 100-year peak in the foreign-born population.
Then, of course, there are the estimated 14.3 million illegal aliens who are the ultimate refugees, costing taxpayers $130 billion a year.
To isolate the discussion to the refugee cap as if we only bring in 18,000 on humanitarian grounds is extremely dishonest and completely ignores the view from the American citizens’ standpoint.
Putting aside the number of refugees for a moment, it’s important to recognize the need to allow local communities to decide their future. This is where the new earth-shattering policy announced Thursday comes into play. The new policy directs the secretary of HHS and the secretary of state to develop a process to solicit consent from states and localities before resettling refugees in a community. According to the presidential order, in general, “if either a state or locality has not provided consent to receive refugees under the program, then refugees should not be resettled within that state or locality.”
As we’ve noted over the years, so many small- to mid-sized towns have been fundamentally transformed with more languages spoken in the schools than in the U.N. and a fiscal burden they never signed up for. It’s only fair to get the consent and buy-in of local towns before resettlement. Earlier this week, I profiled Worthington, Minnesota, a town of 13,000, which now needs $79 million to expand its schools because it has one of the highest per-capita levels of UAC resettlement. Over one-third of all students are now foreign language speakers.
In Portland, Maine, another hub for resettlement, 67 languages are now spoken in the schools and there is a greater percentage of “English language learners” there than in New York City schools!
If such a transformation is as popular as the Left says it is, shouldn’t people vote on it?
Obviously, once a refugee is resettled in one place, he will have the freedom to move anywhere he wants, but the initial cost of group resettlement is a unique part of immigration and should never be done without the consent of the community.
The bottom line is that amidst decades of record immigration that has not been in the national interest and was never approved by the American people, if there is going to be further social transformation, let there be representation. Trump’s new policy goes a long way in achieving that goal.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.