“What can I do?” That was my response to the email that I received on Friday from Jennifer Sime, Sr. Vice President of US Programs. Her email outlined the consequences of President Trump’s executive order, and I have excerpted it below.
At this time, we know that there are as many as 60,000 refugees who have been approved or are very close to being approved to travel to the United States, but will not be able to do so because of the Executive Order. Any ban, whether temporary or not, will have serious implications for thousands of refugee families that will be unable to continue their journey to safety, and for many families already in the United States that will be unable to be reunited with their loved ones.
Like so many others, I am astonished and appalled by the unilateral decision to suspend refugee admissions into the United States. President Trump’s justification for the Executive Order is that it was a matter of “National Security”, however, the Cato Institute published a report in September of 2016 that states the following:
the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year.
I have had the privilege of working directly with refugees since I joined the Board of the International Rescue Committee in 1995, and was honored to serve as Co-Chairman for 6 years. I have traveled to over 16 countries that have been torn apart by conflict and violence and seen first hand the consequences for people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and had to flee for their lives. Many of them have had to endure unspeakable horrors such as the woman I met in Darfur whose child was slaughtered in front of her, or the 14 year old boy I met in Uganda who had a bullet hole in his side that he got trying to escape the Lord’s Resistance Army. I recently met a woman who had fled Afghanistan with her 8 year old son and has resettled here in New York. In Atlanta, I met with an Iraqi refugee family who narrowly escaped death because the mother had been an interpreter for the US occupying forces. Each of the hundreds of refugees that I have met have left me with a sense of awe over their resilience, their courage and their and hope for the future.
Today, there are 65 million refugees and displaced in the world, all of them forced into exile by circumstances beyond their control. While the ideal outcome is for them to ultimately return to their homes, for millions, that will never be an option. The US has a long history of welcoming refugees, and in fact they have enriched our lives and provided economic benefits to our country.
Like so many others, I cannot stand by while the values that define us as a country and our responsibilities to humanity are compromised. The recent spontaneous demonstrations protesting the executive order are an encouraging sign, and I know from prior experience that we can and must stand steadfast until this unfortunate policy is overturned.