Donald Trump Incinerated Our Refugee Resettlement Infrastructure. The Media is Pretending It's Joe Biden's Fault.


Immigrants & Refugees Welcome Sign

There is fresh freak-out from the media and the Very Online Left™.

If you read some of the reactions to President Biden’s determination on refugee allocations in the United States today, you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe Donald Trump did get reinstalled on some political groundhog day in a wet dream of right wing conspiracy theorists. The avalanche of sharp attacks at the President is coming from prominent leftists and self-styled “progressives'' as well as the national media, screeching that the President has heartlessly broken his promise to make America a more hospitable and welcoming place for refugees who are fleeing war, persecution, and climate catastrophe across the planet.

So what precipitated this hellfire?

President Biden signed a new memorandum today that rescinded Donald Trump’s policies about who could be considered for refugee status in the United States but did not, as anyone living outside of a remote cave by now knows, immediately raise the overall cap of 15,000 for the fiscal year 2021 (ending Sept. 30, 2021) set by the Trump administration on October 27, 2020.

The White House later said that it will raise the cap next month, which will still likely fall short of the initial goal the Biden administration had of admitting 62,500 refugees by September 30 because of the badly damaged refugee admission system they inherited from Donald Trump.

The outrage over Biden’s actions today, however, demonstrates the news media and even members of Congress have badly misjudged how serious that damage is, and indeed, the demolition derby Donald Trump performed inside the federal government in his four years at its helm.

Because our job here is to keep leftists honest, let’s start with the shoot-first response from Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Jayapal wrote, about the president who perhaps more than any in history is defined by his decency and humanity, “President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity.”

Jayapal’s statement is crass, outrageous, and disrespectful, and not just to President Biden and the administration that has been tasked with the impossible job of rebuilding the entire federal bureaucracy top to bottom. It does a disservice to refugees themselves. Resettling refugees, who are people fleeing war and persecution, is not as simple as admitting them through a port of entry and stamping 'welcome to the USA' on their passports.

The process is quite elaborate, and to function properly, it requires resources, personnel, and planning. And the process was hollowed out and blown up by Donald Trump.

In fact, how difficult it would be to rebuild a humane, efficient, and effective refugee acceptance process was first noted in February, in the immediate aftermath of an executive order by Biden to start the process of re-evaluating the US’s stingy stand on refugees, by some of the very nonprofit agencies charged with sponsoring and assisting refugees throughout the processes of application, adjudication, immigration, and placement.

"Infrastructure that had been built over four decades was ultimately decimated in four years," Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine national agencies that works with the federal government to resettle refugees, told ABC News.
While in a report to Congress Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted that the humanitarian crises across the world would justify the US accepting up to 62,500 refugees in FY2021, those who had experienced the Trump Administration’s destruction of the refugee infrastructure first hand were skeptical of its logistic feasibility.
...the program doesn't currently have the capacity to admit the number of refugees the Biden White House has aimed for this year, agencies and advocates told ABC News. It will require renewed, long-term investment, they said.

"The Trump administration didn't just try to throw a wrench in the gears," Vignarajah said. "It actually tried to disassemble the entire resettlement infrastructure."
I should note here that the February executive action on refugees from President Biden is being widely misrepresented as having promised an immediate repeal of the cap the Trump administration put in on refugee resettlements. That’s not true.

That Executive Order, issued just 14 days into the Biden-Harris administration, was, in effect, an instruction for the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to investigate the conditions the previous administration left the system in and report back to the President with practical options. It was not a promise to immediately expand the number or refugees accepted into the United States.

Donald Trump left that task impossible without first rebuilding the system he imploded.

The February story in ABC News outlines a harrowing narrative of the systematic, brick-by-brick, controlled collapse of the refugee resettlement infrastructure. Even before the pandemic began, the Trump administration had shuttered over 100 refugee resettlement offices (a third of the total), and the deep cuts in the numbers left the resettlement agencies a former shell of themselves, with some having to reduce operations and staff by up to 80%.

Another critical part of the refugee resettlement pipeline involves the Department of Health and Human Services.

The State Department and the nonprofit resettlement agencies hand over responsibility to HHS three months after the arrival of a refugee family in the US, and the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement then is responsible for providing, through non-profits and states, cash, medical assistance, social services, and employment assistance. The HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement is a division of the Administration for Children & Families, the same agency currently responsible for and overwhelmed with placing tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have arrived through the southern border, a result of the bottleneck created by Donald Trump’s cruel policy of turning back and deporting unaccompanied children at the border.

Donald Trump did not leave Joe Biden an intact, fully functioning, optimally operating federal government. The frame most of the media and leftists trashing Biden are operating from requires the alternative-facts belief that he did.

Trump wasn’t merely a stark departure from America’s commitment to the world. He actively and systematically undermined the government throughout his presidency to purposely make it difficult for his successor to re-engage the global community. He then sought to accelerate the pace of that dismantling in order to sabotage Biden. To understand the kind of damage Trump did to the functioning of the federal government across the board - and not just to the refugee resettlement infrastructure - one needs look no further than Trump’s wrecking of the United States Postal Service, his firing of independent inspectors general, his installing of entire slates of loyalists in key national security positions in the last days in office, his release of classified US intelligence to Russians, and, of course, his refusal to facilitate a smooth and peaceful transition of power.

Practically, though, rebuilding the structure and infrastructure of refugee resettlement isn’t important simply because Donald Trump broke it. It’s important because the system needs to operate seamlessly and full capacity in order to assist the very refugees we hope to welcome. Without a fully capable and operating infrastructure, it will the refugees who will suffer.

If you care about refugees, you have to care about doing this right.

If, however, all you care about is manufacturing outrage and scandal against the president who is rushing against time to fix what’s broken, then inhaling the media coverage uncritically may just be your jam.


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