In 2018, when the administration was two years into its crusade to slam the door on every category of desperate immigrant, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited the drastically reduced limit on refugee admissions and declared, “We are, and continue to be, the most generous nation in the world.”
Mr. Pompeo’s statement was false then, and has become even more truthless since. Last week, the administration laid bare its ongoing assault on the refugee program, a radical departure from a decades-long policy maintained by Republicans and Democrats alike. It set a ceiling of 15,000 admissions for the new fiscal year — a reduction of 82 percent from the 85,000 admitted the year before President Trump took office.
For decades before Mr. Trump took office, the diplomatic bragging point was accurate: The United States did take in more refugees than the rest of the world combined. Yet in 2019, it admitted just a third of other countries’ total, and this year the share was even smaller. Canada, not the United States, is now the world’s leader in refugee resettlement.
The president’s systematic assault on refugee admissions, part of his broader effort to slam shut the nation’s doors to legal and illegal immigrants alike, stands in contrast to the tableau of intensifying desperation across the globe. Nearly 80 million forcibly displaced people were stranded in camps and other squalid settings around the world at the end of 2019, roughly double the number a decade earlier. The United Nations’ refugee agency counts 26 million of them as refugees, of whom roughly half are children.
Yet even as the need swells — and even as nearly three-quarters of Americans believe it is important to accept refugees into the country — the administration hardens its stance of resolute indifference. It makes no difference to the Trump administration if refugees are strangers to this country or proven friends. Although 4,000 slots were reserved in the past year for Iraqi interpreters and others who have helped the U.S. military in Iraq, the administration resettled just 123 in the United States.
Mr. Trump evidently thinks nativism sells politically. At a rally in Duluth, Minn., last week, he unleashed an ugly, xenophobic rant directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), herself a Somali refugee, and warned that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden “will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp.” The state is home to about 57,000 Somali refugees.
Hatred, division, xenophobia and fear — these are the four pillars of Mr. Trump’s appeal to the American people. Whether they’re effective is an open question; that they have diminished this country is not.