The Trump administration doesn’t believe in the...
The war in Syria and the resulting migration crisis in Europe has increased policymakers’ scrutiny of arrivals from the Middle East, beginning with the administration of Barack Obama. Donald Trump ratcheted up that scrutiny with a ban on refugees from certain countries, renewing debate over the national security implications of refugee policy.
On numerous occasions, President Trump has described America’s asylum laws as the most accepting—or, in his words, “dumbest,” in the world. “When people, with or without children, enter our Country, they must be told to leave… only country in the World that does this!”
America is “by far the most generous nation in the world for legal immigration.” Said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Not only is “by far” clearly false, but when you consider its wealth, America is already among the least generous to immigrants around the world.
Many other countries are much more accepting of asylum seekers than the United States is. In fact, the United States ranks 50th in the world in net increase in asylees, refugees, and people in similar situations as a share of its population since 2012.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) publishes data on the number of refugees and asylum seekers in each country. From 2012 to 2017, UNHCR finds that the United States accepted a net increase of 654,128 asylees, refugees, and people in similar circumstances. That amounted to 0.2 percent of the U.S. population in 2017. As the Figure below shows, 49 other countries had higher rates of acceptance than the United States did. The average rate of acceptance for the top 50 countries was 1.2 percent of the population—six times higher than the U.S. rate.
It includes many countries that are much less wealthy than the United States. Lebanon, which has accepted an astounding 14 percent of its population in asylees just since 2012, has a per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $8,400—7 times less than the United States—but it has accepted asylees at 73 times the rate of the United States.
President Trump is simply incorrect that other countries don’t accept refugees and asylees, including those who come in unannounced. In fact, four dozen other countries are dealing with more significant asylee populations than the United States is.
the United States has been one of the least welcoming wealthy countries in terms of net total immigration as a share of the country’s population in recent years. America should reform its immigration laws, but it should do so to make them more welcoming, not less.
It is noteworthy that out of the more than three million refugees accepted by the United States over the past four decades, a handful have been implicated in terrorist plots. According to a 2016 study by the libertarian-leaning CATO Institute, of the 154 foreign-born terrorists that committed attacks since 1975, twenty were refugees. Of these attacks, only three proved deadly, and all three took place before 1980, when the Refugee Act created the current screening procedures.