The following opinion editorial is written by analyst Joe Guzzardi and published by “Progressives For Immigration Reform.” Guzzardi is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration and related social issues. The following is republished in its entirety, with permission.
No sooner had the State Department announced that it would cut the refugee cap to 18,000 annually than the immigration accelerationists began their predictable rant. Among the accusations was that the new 18,000 cap – down from 30,000 last year and from 110,000 during Obama’s final year – was President Trump’s latest step to decimate the refugee program. The hysteria continued. President Trump was acting outside his constitutional authority, immorally, shamefully and with reckless disregard for the tradition that the 1980 Refugee Act established.
But the U.S. Constitution has no provision that mandates the acceptance of refugees, and what may have appeared sound legislation to President Jimmy Carter back in 1980 when the U.S. struggled with the deadly Southeast Asian War’s consequences doesn’t necessarily hold true today.
While the immigration lobby and the American Immigration Lawyers Association oppose the administration’s lower cap, and instead press for higher refugee resettlement levels, another view is that the White House is bringing the program in line with the nation’s need – or lack thereof – for more immigration. Critics of the lower refugee cap neglect to mention that a record number of about 350,000 illegal border crossers requested refugee protection via asylum petitions. Detractors’ demands that the U.S. should do more for global refugees are uninformed. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.S. is its biggest contributor. For 2017 and 2018, the U.S. pledged $134 million.
A tally of winners and losers in the current refugee program is telling. The winners are the relatively few refugees who are resettled annually. On the other hand, between 2004 and 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services spent $96 billion on their welfare benefits, with state and local governments, many with limited budgets, contributing more money in the form of federally unfunded mandates. The losers are U.S. taxpayers.
The refugees will also receive lifetime valid work authorization documents as well as other affirmative benefits. Those work permits allow refugees to compete with millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans, especially the most vulnerable, low-skilled workers. Eventually, refugees will be able to petition other family members from abroad, and their U.S.-born children will automatically become citizens. Big winners, the refugees; losers, American workers and population stabilization advocates.
Under previous administrations, refugees were resettled in stealth. That is, communities got little if any notice that new arrivals were on the way, and disruption often followed. Schools, hospitals and other institutions find keeping up with the refugee influx difficult. Nashville, Tenn., is a good example. It responded by filing a lawsuit against the government. The state argues that the government, by forcing Nashville and other municipalities to accept refugees, violates the Constitution’s 10th Amendment which states that only states have funding powers that the Constitution doesn’t delegate.
As part of his revamped refugee program, President Trump signed an Executive Order that requires that the State Department and its resettlement contractors must obtain in writing permission from the individual states and the specific localities that they are willing to accept the refugees and all costs related to their relocation. Essentially, states and local governments have veto power over who takes up residency in their communities and who taps into their assets, a perfectly logical requirement.
President Trump said his goal is to assist refugees, so they eventually can return to their home countries and help rebuild their own nations.
Theodore Roosevelt, a true progressive, coined the phrase “Square Deal” which meant that government had to benefit everyone or else it benefited no one. But the refugee policy in its pre-Trump form worked on behalf of a small handful of refugees and the contractors that resettle them, but against workers and taxpayers. President Trump’s proposed changes are a step in the right direction and overdue.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].