Nominee Bodes Badly for Future of U.S. Refugee Resettlement

On May 24, 2018, Ronald Mortensen was nominated to become the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.  This is the wing of the State Department with oversight of the U.S. reefugee resettlement program.

As highlighted in this prior MeBIC post, refugee admissions in FY 2018 are already at their lowest since the Refugee Act of 1980 enshrined into law the U.S.’s commitment to carrying out our obligations under international law to offer protection to those fleeing past or feared future persecution.

The nomination of Ronald Mortensen makes it clear that this Administration intends to turn its back on refugees not just this year, but well into the future.  His history of published statements that are openly hostile towards immigrants, and his affiliation with groups that espouse anti-immigrant and immigrant restrictionist platforms make him a supremely inappropriate choice to lead  the U.S. refugee resettlement operations.

MeBIC agrees with the following statement from about this appointment:

“Especially given the news of the last few days and the separation of tiny babies from their parents, it is beyond troubling that people like Ronald Mortensen who have spent their careers spreading falsehoods on immigrants, and who have close ties to groups founded and funded by the eugenics movement, keep being appointed to these critical government jobs. The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in particular is involved in decisions to protect and ease the suffering of refugees and conflict victims — and, because of this enormous responsibility, people need to examine Mortensen’s incredibly disturbing record very closely. His nomination is part of a very deliberate policy agenda by this Administration to radically restrict legal immigration and deter others from immigrating to the United States. Mortensen’s nomination will come before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. We respectfully call on Senators Corker, Menendez, Gardner, Cardin, Portman, and all Members on both sides of the aisle to thoroughly examine Mortensen’s record and vote ‘no’ on his nomination. The Senate’s job is to advise and consent on key nominations, and it’s clear from Mortensen’s track record that he is unfit to serve in government.”

Mortensen is a current fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant policy center and hate group that advocates for removing as many immigrants from the U.S. as possible and reducing legal immigration as much as possible. CIS, which was founded and funded by avowed eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton (author of The Case for Passive Eugenics), manipulates data to create misleading evidence in support of their policy goals. Additionally, the group regularly circulates white nationalist authors and their content, and in the last decade has done so more than 2,000 times.

The United States has both a legal and a moral obligation to resettle refugees.  But in the past, refugee resettlement has also provided our aging nation with  a steady stream of newcomers who, along with their children, enrich our communities and join our workforce.   With national unemployment at 3.8%, and Maine’s unemployment rate at 2.7%, doing the right thing for refugees is also the right thing for the future of our country and our state. 

A nominee whose own words indicate hostility to immigrants and refugees does not bode well for the continued vitality and viability of the U.S.’s refugee resettlement program.