The Corner

Politics & Policy

America and Refugees

Refugees from Southeast Asia in the 1980s (Wikipedia / Public Domain)

A few weeks back, we had an issue devoted to “What We Love about America.” One of the things I love is our traditional openness to refugees (with some shameful lapses, of course, as in the case of the St. Louis). We have provided a haven to the desperate and persecuted.

We have helped them, yes — but they have helped us, too. Some of the best Americans — the most admirable and American of Americans — have been refugees. From Germany, Vietnam, and all over. Many of them have served, and are serving, in our military — sometimes in the countries that hounded them out.

Imagine that: returning in an American uniform. (Henry Kissinger is an example of a person who did this.)

Here is a news story from yesterday — complete with some editorializing, to be sure:

President Trump has decided to slash the American refugee program by almost half, greatly dimming the United States’ role in accepting persecuted refugees from most parts of the world, the State Department announced Thursday.

The administration said it would accept 18,000 refugees during the next 12 months, down from the current limit of 30,000 and a fraction of the 110,000 President Barack Obama said should be allowed into the United States in 2016, his final year in office.

(Full article here.)

Here is another one:

President Donald Trump said at the United Nations this week that “protecting religious freedom is one of my highest priorities.” But his promise rings hollow to advocates for persecuted religious minorities seeking refuge in the United States.


In addition to Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, other persecuted religious minorities whose refugee admissions have dropped by more than half since the final full year of the Obama administration include Christians from a half-dozen nations.

(Full article here.)

Last month, I quoted from a profile of Stephen Miller, the president’s immigration adviser: “A fervent critic of refugee programs, he has helped cut annual admissions by about three-quarters since the end of the Obama administration.” I noted that “people are very proud of this. Very. I know them, I hear from them. But I think that they, like death, should not be proud.”

Obviously, we can’t take everyone. No nation can be responsible for the fall of every sparrow. But we can do more. And obviously, we have to be careful — our security is paramount. But we don’t have to slam the door shut. Refugees enrich our land. As a rule, they out-American Americans. Plus, have you ever thought about what you would do, if you needed refuge?

Americans have the luxury of never having to think about this. It would never cross our minds. But it crossed the minds of many of our forebears, for sure.

Every one of us, probably, has an idea of what America is, or should be. Every one of us has an idea of what America should represent in the world. What our country should be about.

In the past — including the recent past — I have cited Dusty Rhodes, our late friend, National Review’s longtime president. He was on the board of every conservative organization you could think of — Bradley, Heritage, you name it. He was a Mr. Conservative. But he was also on the board of the International Rescue Committee (the group founded at the urging of Einstein in the 1930s). He thought this work was very important. He traveled to Thailand to see Cambodians. He went all over.

In the Republican party and the conservative movement, the Trump-Miller-Bannon point of view is riding high. It may not always be like this, though. Tides turn, and this one can too.


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