The Trump Effect: fewer refugees are entering the U.S.

President Trump’s executive orders on a temporary ban on Muslim refugees (on visas to nationals from terrorism-prone countries) haven’t even gone into effect because of obstructionist judges, but the number of refugees entering the U.S. already is down.

After an initial executive order ran into legal roadblocks, Trump issued a revised one on March 6 that once again sought to block all refugees from entering the country for 120 days.

The new order again included a ceiling on 50,000 refugees overall to be admitted during FY 2017. Trump declared that allowing more than that “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

But the U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order preventing the administration from implementing the 120-day bar on refugee entry (as well as a 90-day bar on entry of most citizens of six terror-prone countries – Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen). Other parts of the judge’s order, including the 50,000 refugee admission ceiling for FY 2017, were not impacted by the court action and went into effect on March 16. The 50,000 ceiling stands in sharp contrast to the Obama administration’s announcement last fall that the U.S. would resettle 110,000 this fiscal year.

Patrick Goodenough reports for that the number of refugees admitted to the United States dropped in March to its lowest monthly tally of the current fiscal year 2017, even as the implementation of President Trump’s latest immigration executive order continues to be held up by federal courts.

Here are the numbers, from State Department Refugee Processing Center data:

  • The number has steadily declined in FY 2017, from 9,945 refugees admitted to the U.S. last October, to 8,355 in November, 7,371 in December and 6,777 in January.
  • In March 2017, 2,070 refugees arrived in the U.S., a drop of 54.79% from February‘s 4,579.
  • With the fiscal year now halfway through, 39,098 refugees had arrived as of March 31, of whom 30,122 arrived before the end of the Obama administration and only 8,967 since Trump’s inauguration.
  • Of the 2,070 refugees resettled in March, the largest contingents came from Somalia (335), Syria (282), Burma (278), Iraq (192), Democratic Republic of Congo (184), Ukraine (167) and Iran (101).

Syrian refugees have been in the spotlight especially because of fears that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) would try to exploit refugee admission programs to infiltrate operatives into the West. The Obama administration insisted that the vetting process for refugees was the most robust of any for those wanting to travel to the U.S., but FBI Director James Comey had admitted that there are limits on U.S. security agencies’ ability to vet refugee applicants from Syria, given the ongoing civil war.

  • The U.S. has admitted 5,839 Syrian refugees during FY 2017, and 1,221 since the start of the Trump administration.
  • Of the 18,135 Syrian refugees the U.S. had admitted since the Nov. 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France, 98.8% were Muslims, 0.9% Christians, and 0.3% Yazidis and others.
  • Of the 1,221 Syrian refugees admitted since the start of the Trump administration, 98.5% were Muslims, 1.2% Christians and 0.2% Yazidis.

A year ago, the Obama administration had determined that Christians and Yazidis were being targeted for genocide in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria. Despite that, Trump’s revised executive order dropped a provision in the original one that called for the prioritizing of refugees from religious minorities. Trump’s revised executive order also dropped the original order’s provision placing an indefinite ban on the admission of refugees from Syria.

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