As MeBIC has written about previously, the U.S. Government is continuing to block the admission of refugees to the U.S. Last fall, the Administration stated that 45,000 refugees would be admitted to the U.S. in this fiscal year, the lowest number since the Refugee Act of 1980 took effect.
But as reported in a recent article, government data shows that the actual number of refugees admitted year-to-date makes it likely that barely 20,000 will enter the U.S. before the fiscal year ends in September. Muslim refugees from countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and Syria have been the hardest hit. In FY 2016, nearly 39,000 refugees from predominantly Muslim countries gained refugee status in the U.S. To date this fiscal year, just over 2100 Muslim refugees have entered. The Administration’s “Travel Ban 4.0” and heightened vetting of a population that was already subjected to the highest level of scrutiny (typically taking nearly two years to complete) of all applicants seeking to come to the U.S., have erected a virtual wall blocking entry of refugees.
Maine has resettled only 53 refugees as of May 16, 2018, putting the state on track to receive fewer than 100 when the fiscal year ends in just over four months. To compare, in FY 2016, Maine received about 650 refugees, most from countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and Syria.
The U.S. has an international law obligation to resettle refugees, as well a moral and humanitarian obligation to do so. But refugee resettlement is not just the right thing to do for refugees; it is a win for the U.S. economy, bringing a reliable stream each year of newcomers who want to work and contribute to the country that offers them safe haven. Refugees enter our workforce, start businesses, pay taxes, volunteer, and have children who will be our workforce of tomorrow. Refugees have been a steady source of newcomers and contributing community members to Maine since 1980, until the numbers dropped by over half last fiscal year, only to become nearly insignificant during the current fiscal year.
With Maine’s unemployment rate below 3%, its lowest in forty years, and the U.S. unemployment rate at a nearly 17 year low at only 3.9%, the Administration’s effective evisceration of our nation’s refugee resettlement process makes little economic sense.