IN SEEKING to justify the Trump administration’s massive reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who resisted the scale of the cut but lost out to White House hard-liners — has said Washington and its Western allies should “take care of them over there.” The administration’s budget proposal shows that its true policy is to turn its back on refugees wherever they may be.
In the budget he submitted to Congress, President Trump would slash funds for international humanitarian assistance and all but eliminate the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. That agency, which is part of the State Department, spends more than $3 billion annually helping refugees from some of the globe’s most turbulent spots who have applied to resettle in the United States. The administration proposes to squash its operations nearly to nothingness, leaving it with just $320 million — about a tenth of its current resources.
Along with its crusade to whack refugee resettlement, the administration would drastically cut humanitarian aid generally, as well as global health programs. Such aid would be shrunk across the board, including funds to alleviate suffering from hunger and natural disasters.
That blueprint is going nowhere in Congress, which has no appetite for the broad retreat from global leadership that is central to Mr. Trump’s worldview. However, it is in line with the president’s determined war on refugees and legal immigrants, generally. In the current fiscal year, the White House has capped refugee resettlements in the United States at 30,000, the lowest number since the program was established; the historical average is roughly 90,000.
Though it cannot unilaterally downsize department and program budgets, the White House can reorder priorities within agencies, and it is doing so with a vengeance in its full-court press against refugees. A key agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is shuttering its international division, according to a report this week in the New York Times — a move likely to create obstacles for refugees applying to resettle in the United States, as well as refugees already in the United States intent on bringing family members to join them. Wait times for applicants, already onerous, are likely to get much worse.
For an administration that systematically tore migrant children from their parents last year, it is another assault on foreign-born families, whose reunification Mr. Trump has disparaged as “chain migration.”
More than 68 million people have been forcibly displaced around the world, a number unseen since World War II, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency. At a moment that calls for leadership from Washington, Mr. Trump is turning his back not just on the world but also on the United States’ tradition of compassion for those in need.