The order is a pause. By year end, the U.S. will likely still have resettled more refugees through the United Nations Refugee Agency than any other country, and nearly as many as all others combined.
And less than 0.1 percent of the 75 million annual visitors to the U.S. will be affected by the pause.
A spur-of-the-moment, and thus somewhat chaotic implementation, helped fuel negative reactions to the "pause order." But when Americans get past anecdotal reporting, they'll realize that Trump's order takes appropriate steps to keep the country safe and also to maintain our standing as a leader in humanitarian efforts around the world.
The order pauses refugee resettlement for 120 days, pauses the entry of nationals from six countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) for 90 days, and pauses the entry of Syrians indefinitely. This provides time for the new officials in the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and in the intelligence community, to review vetting procedures and fulfill their role in manning the front lines against terrorist threats.
The refugee resettlement program needs review after years of running on autopilot.
Trump's order rolls back the Obama administration goal of resettling 110,000 refugees this year to the more traditional level of 50,000. The new cap has strong precedent. For decades, refugee admissions averaged around 50,000, and in 2011 and 2012, the Obama administration admitted 56,384 and 58,179 refugees, respectively. The 1980 Refugee Act, as well as the last bipartisan commission forimmigration reform, chaired by the late Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, also recommended capping refugee admissions at 50,000.
Our role in resettlement has and will remain robust under the 50,000-refugee cap. In 2015, around 135,000 U.N.-recognized refugees were permanently resettled around the world. Of those, the U.S. accepted more than every other country combined and almost four times the number accepted by Canada, the next highest country.
Permanent resettlement is a solution for only about 1 percent of all refugees. Most refugee aid is directed at the 99 percent who remain in their home regions. Lost in the weekend's theatrics, Trump spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Sunday afternoon to discuss the establishment of more safe zones in the Middle East to provide food, housing, and medical care for refugees.
The Center for Immigration Studies examined the costs of resettling refugees in the United States using estimates from the U.N. CIS determined that the U.S. could help 12 Middle Eastern refugees in safe zones in the region for the same cost as resettling one in the U.S. Establishing these safe zones could prove to be the most humanitarian action the U.S. could take.
Trump's pause on the entry of foreign nationals from seven countries is aimed at keeping our country safe. The seven countries were first identified by Congress and Obama after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris. Then Congress and the president halted the visa waiver program for nationals from these countries. The Trump order simply takes the suspension one step further by pausing admissions for three months.
The order leaves much room for special cases to get through the pause period. The order allows Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to provide waivers on a case-by-case basis for green card holders, diplomats, NATO officials, and anyone else whose entry would serve the national interest. Kelly reiterated on Sunday that all green card holders would be waived if they don't pose a serious threat to national security.
In presenting the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform's findings to Congress in 1994, Barbara Jordan said, "It is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest." Those words remain true, and by securing the safety of all Americans and finding new ways to help more refugees around the world, Trump is working to fulfill that responsibility.
Chris Chmielenski (@cchmielenski) is the director of content and grassroots activism at NumbersUSA.