With nearly 69 million people displaced around the world and our own humanitarian crisis at the southern border, America has a moral obligation to protect the integrity of its refugee and asylum policies. Given the massive backlog of asylum cases, as well as national security and financial concerns, the administration’s announcement that up to 30,000 refugees may be admitted in the next fiscal year is a responsible ceiling based on our actual capacity.
Our refugee intake should never be the sole barometer of our steadfast commitment to humanitarian efforts around the world. With some 700,000 asylum-seekers awaiting adjudication, and another 280,000 expected next year, the lower refugee ceiling allows us to focus on the humanitarian cases of those already in the country, while providing assistance to a greater number of people around the world.
Considering refugees and asylees as part of the same relief effort is a more accurate reflection of America’s role as one of the most generous countries in the world in terms of protection-based immigration and assistance. Other countries, when noting their humanitarian efforts, highlight their assistance to both refugees and asylum-seekers. It is important for the United States to do the same.
The administration’s focus on our asylum backlog underscores the need for reforms that only Congress can deliver. Congress must narrow the scope of our asylum laws so that they confer benefits only on individuals who would qualify as refugees if they were outside the United States. If our asylum system remains a fraudulent backdoor route to permanent residence, the border crisis will continue unabated and our ability to help those truly in need of humanitarian protection will diminish.
Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.