Local advocates and leaders are denouncing the Trump administration’s order to cap the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. next year at 18,000. The number will be the lowest ever under the resettlement program, which was established in the 1980s.
At a news conference Wednesday, organizers called the proposal an attack "on vulnerable people seeking safety."
“The U.S., the richest nation in the world, was at one point a nation that accepted the most refugees in the world,” Simone Talma Flowers, executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, said. “Here it is every year since 2016 the number has been decreasing.”
The 18,000 refugee limit is down from 30,000 this year and a more than 80% decrease from 2016. According to the Pew Research Center, Texas has taken in more than 88,000 refugees since 2002, but that number has declined sharply over the past few years. So far in 2019, the state has resettled 2,300 people.
"Refugees represent peoples that have a deep respect for hard work and given the opportunity would share our commitment to the American dream," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. "It is abhorrent that in our present political debate these people are being used as pawns. We are a great country. We are a great country with plenty of room."
The proposed order would also give municipalities and states the right to deny refugees.
“That really doesn’t reflect the Christian value and vision of loving our neighbor as yourself," Vox Veniae Pastor Weylin Lee, whose parents immigrated from China, said. "So our congregation is very saddened and very frustrated by that decision and that practice."
White House officials defended the decision in a report to Congress stating “the current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large numbers of refugees.”
Talma Flowers told residents to contact their lawmakers and ask them to raise the annual admissions goal.
“Speak up and demand that we do better,” Talma Flowers said. “Do it today. … Do it now.”