Thursday, May 10, 2018

Refugees and war policy

I've been wondering about the link between two things that Trump at least appeared to oppose in 2016: endless wars with doubtful strategic purposes, and open borders.

Thanks to Kaus/Krikorian. A piece in FP (formerly Foreign Policy) argues that overall control over refugee policy should reside with the State Department--solutions for refugees, including the ability to come to the U.S., are used as tools to solve foreign policy problems. Americans at home live with the results.

Under previous presidents, the National Security Council and the State Department led discussions on refugee policy. But under President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House Domestic Policy Council are driving the debate, current and former officials say. As a result, domestic politics — and the president’s pledge to crack down on all forms of immigration — have shaped decision-making.

In announcing the 45,000 cap on refugees last year, the White House said the president’s decision represented a “responsible approach to promote the safety of the American people.”

But critics say the Trump White House has wildly overstated the potential threat posed by refugees, who undergo elaborate vetting overseen by DHS, the FBI, and intelligence agencies, and that Trump’s advisors fail to grasp the strategic implications of an about-face in America’s stance on refugees.

“This administration has viewed resettlement through a domestic policy and political lens. What they have failed to capture and understand is that refugee resettlement is purposefully grounded in our foreign policy,” says Nazanin Ash, vice president of public policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee.

The 38-year-old legislation that set up the country’s refugee program intentionally empowers the secretary of state to set policy and pledge humanitarian assistance in crises, says Ash, a former State Department official. “It helps with regional stability and security. Part of our leverage is saying, ‘We will take a certain number of refugees,’” she says.

Refugees are vetted more than people going through the immigration process? Well, the Trump administration is working on it. I would have thought refugees are specifically understood as "exceptional" immigrants, less subject to vetting. If they've been displaced from home, living in refugee camps, what are the chances they have valid ID that can be confirmed in a war zone? It sounds like Trump is using his "America First" lens: what is actually good for the U.S.? This is not crazy. As far as numbers: illegal immigrants who just overstay a visa or show up are probably a bigger problem, and there are probably too many "legal" immigrants who don't get enough vetting as to the benefit they will bring. (Coulter's new column is about how some of the 2003 World Trade bombers got in on the agricultural worker visa program, which Trump apparently wants to expand or extend. They had nothing to do with agriculture, and should have been rejected quickly based on timing. She says Iranian terrorists are more likely to attack Americans in uniform in places like Syria than than they to attack Americans at home, so U.S. forces should get out of places like Syria.)

I'm thinking it helps the U.S., in making somewhat vaguely rationalized military attacks on various countries, to be able to say: we'll take refugees. This proves we have the well-being of the people in mind.

The only example given in the FT article is of Somalis in a refugee camp in Kenya. Kenya wanted to close a refugee camp and send the people to their own country. John Kerry came up with money and perhaps other support to keep them in Kenya. Was part of the deal to make sure some of them got to the U.S.? Trump has made a deal with Australia to "take" some refugees who are now living on Nauru. So far, in accordance with the travel ban, Iranians and Somalis are being rejected.

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