Former top State Department official arrested protesting Trump's refugee cuts

Former top State Department official arrested protesting Trump's refugee cuts
Protest image, CC

Anne Richard said that as the former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, she never expected to get arrested on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., protesting a policy from the head of her former agency. “But I decided to take this bold stand because the Trump administration seeks to destroy not just a federal program,” she writes in an op-ed, “but an American tradition of serving as a sanctuary for the threatened and persecuted that stretches back to the Pilgrims.”

Richard was among the 18 leaders arrested during an act of civil disobedience this week, protesting the Trump administration’s decision to slash the number of refugees that can be admitted to the United States in the next fiscal year to a historic low, from an average of 95,000 per year during previous administrations to just 18,000 people. In fact, Richard writes that “at that low rate, the resettlement program will barely continue to exist.”

“But the numbers aren't the whole story,” she continues. “Trump policies will have alarming long-term consequences. The administration will no longer rely on the UN Refugee Agency to identify and refer some of the neediest cases to us … and already we see the network of faith-based and non-profit agencies that help refugees across America closing offices, turning away staff and volunteers and severing longstanding ties with landlords and employers willing to take a chance on energetic workers who, while legal, have no credit history or local references.”

One round of slashing from the administration, from 110,000 in fiscal year 2017, to 45,000 in fiscal year 2018, had already forced a number of U.S. resettlement offices to shut down. Last year, Catholic Charities USA’s vice president of social policy told The Atlantic that the group had to close a number of offices due to the cuts. But the human costs caused by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump officials, Richard says, will be irreparable. “I know some of those mothers waiting to hold their children again. I can't continue to read story after story of people who are suffering—some even dying—because this administration has unilaterally decided we are done being a nation of refugees and immigrants.”

“That's why I got arrested yesterday,” she continued, joining 17 faith and human rights leaders to represent the only 18,000 refugees who will be allowed in to the U.S. “Because the refugee resettlement program is worth it. Resettlement saves lives and is key to U.S. foreign policy interests. Refugees contribute to the U.S. economy and become powerful ambassadors of the American dream. I can't stand idly by as the legacy of refugee resettlement is destroyed. Whether on the Capitol steps or in your hometown, I hope you will join us in calling on Congress and the White House to protect refugee resettlement in America.”

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