FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 19, 2019
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TIRRC Decries the Trump Administration’s Attempts to Ban Refugees
Trump administration considering resettling nearly zero refugees in coming year
NASHVILLE, TN - It was reported yesterday that the Trump administration is planning to propose accepting nearly zero refugees into the United States in fiscal year 2020, which begins in October.
Today’s report comes on the heels of a rule change from the Trump administration that would effectively ban asylum seekers who come through another country from having their cases heard in the U.S.
These actions combined are the most extreme assaults on our nation’s humanitarian systems of protection and would amount to a de facto ban of refugees and asylum seekers at a time when we are facing the worst refugee crisis in recorded history.
The following is a statement from Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director at the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):
“Since he was elected, the Trump administration has been closing the door on people seeking refuge in our country. Today, we’ve learned they’re trying to lock the door shut by taking the attacks on our humanitarian systems of protection to the extreme.
This is a life-threatening blow to the hundreds of thousands of individuals waiting to seek safety and protection in our country and a devastating loss to individuals who have already found safety here who’ve been waiting to reunite with their loved ones.
Our country has a long and proud history of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable. Time and time again, we’ve demonstrated global leadership in responding to humanitarian crises around the globe and at our border, fulfilling our promise of safety and refuge. At a time of great need, we know our country can and must once again rise to the occasion.
We call on our members of Congress, to do everything in their power to restore our commitment to welcoming refugees and refugee resettlement to historic numbers and end the attack on asylum seekers. Our nation can and must do better.”
The following is a statement from Abdulwahab Alabid of Chattanooga, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2012:
“The U.S. Refugee Resettlement program was a lifeline for my family. Through resettlement, I was able to rebuild my life and give back to my community. My life in Iraq was about survival, but here in Tennessee it is about fulfillment. I can send my children to school without fearing for their safety, and my wife and I run a thriving business serving traditional middle-eastern food to the city of Chattanooga.
But now this life-saving program is under attack. As refugees like me wait for a chance to restore peace to their lives, the United States is threatening to turn its back. We must join together as a community to stand against this harmful proposal and all those that would block people fleeing violence and persecution from finding refuge in our nation.”
The following is a statement from Rabbi Philip "Flip" Rice of Congregation Micah in Nashville:
“The history of the Jewish experience pushes us toward empathy, a quality our elected officials have not exemplified in recent months. The leaders of our country should have more compassion and should work to ensure our nation is truly the land of the free.
I want those seeking asylum to have the same opportunities this great country has extended to the Jewish people, but our community knows all too well what happens when we refuse people refuge. We have a responsibility to respond to those in need, and we cannot blindly support an administration whose values do not coincide with our values as people of faith.”
Since World War II, the United States has been a world leader in refugee resettlement, setting an average refugee admissions goal of 95,000 refugees per year - even resettling up to 200,000 in certain years.
But in 2017, the Trump administration began to dismantle the refugee resettlement program, slashing the number of individuals we resettled each year. Last year, the administration announced a cap of 30,000 refugees, the lowest in the 39-year history of the U.S. refugee resettlement program - eroding the resettlement program by 75%.
In Tennessee, we’ve already deeply felt the impact of the gutting of the resettlement program - from recently welcoming an average of 1,600 refugees per year to now resettling less than 478 individuals so far in the 2018 fiscal year. In 2017, after Trump unleashed his first blow to the resettlement program, World Relief Nashville closed their doors after thirty years, devastating our local infrastructure to welcome and support refugees.
The decimation of the refugee resettlement program comes as the number of displaced persons worldwide has reached a historic high of 70 million, with over 25 million qualifying for refugee status worldwide. Less than 1% of refugees will be resettled to a third country under current regulations, a number that will continue to decrease as the Trump administration continues attacks on our nation’s systems of protection.
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. Since its founding in 2001, TIRRC has worked to develop immigrant leadership, build the capacity of its immigrant-led member organizations, help immigrant community members understand and engage in the civic process, and educate the public about policies that would better promote integration of new immigrants and facilitate their full participation in US society. In just a few years TIRRC has grown from a grassroots network of community leaders into one of the most diverse and effective coalitions of its kind, a model for emerging immigrant rights organizations in the Southeast and throughout the United States. For more information visit www.tnimmigrant.org.