Lift the refugee cap, Mr. Trump. America needs more: Madeleine Albright and Bob Menendez

Lift the refugee cap, Mr. Trump. America needs more: Madeleine Albright and Bob Menendez

By:  Madeleine Albright and Bob Menendez
USA Today

Every day, roughly 44,000 people around the world are forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict or the threat of persecution. There are now more forcibly displaced people worldwide than ever before, including many who cannot safely return home or remain where they found refuge.

For decades, both Republican and Democratic administrations held our commitment to refugee resettlement as a point of pride, a reflection of our fundamental values, and a service to our strategic and humanitarian interests. Following the international community’s tragic failure to shelter Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis, the United States has demonstrated strong global leadership by providing safe haven to the world’s most vulnerable. We admitted thousands of the “Lost Boys” of South Sudan, airlifted Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon, and provided refuge to Bhutanese victims of ethnic cleansing and Kosovar victims of genocide. Following the worst terrorist attack on our nation’s soil on 9/11, President George W. Bush set a refugee admissions ceiling of 70,000 and refused to cut it in the years that followed.

But we did not become a global resettlement leader out of pure altruism. By welcoming refugees, we have aided our economy, strengthened our country and served our foreign policy interests. We have helped those whose lives were in danger because they assisted U.S. troops abroad. Refugees have created diverse, thriving communities in places like Camden and Elizabeth in New Jersey and Denver, Colorado. They become deeply patriotic and hardworking Americans who return more in taxes than they receive in benefits and invigorate towns with new energy and businesses. They are our nurses, police officers, teachers, doctors, agricultural and retail workers.

Refugee resettlement also promotes global stability, and elevates our moral leadership in addressing the world’s most complex problems. Countries such as Bangladesh, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Turkey, and Pakistan each shelter hundreds of thousands of refugees, and look to us for leadership as they face tremendous domestic pressure to turn away those fleeing violence and persecution. By rejecting our shared obligation to take an appropriate number of refugees, President Trump damages our ability to work with partners, undermines our credibility and cedes critical leverage to hold other countries accountable for their own response to this global crisis. And though the administration claims a strategy of helping refugees “over there,” it has twice proposed slashing overseas refugee assistance by almost 20 percent.

As Americans, we now face a choice: Do we embrace the responsibility of refugee resettlement, live up to our best values, and in doing so continue to lead the world? Or do we follow down this dark and isolationist path, which will leave us morally and economically bankrupt, and alone in the world without allies or partners?

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