Published 8:44 PM EDT Sep 20, 2018
Never mind that President Donald Trump's new rock-bottom rate for accepting refugees (30,000 a year) mocks American tradition enshrined on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Forget that officials are hard-pressed to cite even a single fatal terrorist attack in the United States committed by a refugee.
And put aside the reality that refugees relocated into the USA actually provide an economic benefit of tens of billions of dollars over a decade.
To fully understand the cruelty of the proposed limit Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week, consider what's happening to Sam.
MIKE POMPEO: We remain the world’s most generous nation
Sam is the name American soldiers gave an Iraqi man who was among thousands working as interpreters for U.S. forces and Defense Department contractors during the Iraq War. They wore the same military fatigues, survived the same roadside bomb blasts, and endured the same emotional trauma as American troops.
When Sam's work with the U.S. Army was done, he and his wife and children were targeted by assassination attempts and he fled to Egypt in 2014. Sam (his name has been withheld because of threats to his life) was robbed at gunpoint earlier this year by men claiming to be Egyptian authorities, and he now risks returning to Iraq.
What's particularly callous is that Sam had been granted refugee status, had a U.S. sponsor, has a welcoming U.S. community and was cleared for travel to America last year. But Trump's restrictive travel bans aimed at Muslim countries like Iraq snatched that salvation away. Now Sam faces new layers of security reviews imposed by an administration seeking some fanciful zero level of risk for refugees.
"Denying those translators entry into America runs counter to the values we teach our citizens," former Army Reserve Capt. Allen Vaught wrote in USA TODAY last year. Vaught has been working feverishly to bring Sam and his family to the USA.
Pompeo's well-worn answer to criticism about a miserly refugee policy is that the United States remains "the most generous nation in the history of civilization."
Indeed, that was true when America took in 130,000 South Vietnamese soon after the fall of Saigon in 1975 or, under Operation Open Arms in 1999, accepted thousands of Muslim Kosovar Albanians fleeing ethnic cleansing.
But Trump slashed the overall refugee ceiling to a record low 45,000 last year, and his mired screening processes have allowed just 21,000 with the fiscal year almost over.
Muslims are fast disappearing even within that trickle. Fewer than 2,000 have been admitted this year, with most of the rest Christian. So far as refugees go, Trump's famous pre-election vow to ban Muslims has largely come true.
Pompeo argues that no matter the refugee ceiling, American generosity continues in the form of substantial humanitarian financial aid around the world. But that's disingenuous considering Trump wants to slash 2019 aid funding by 28%.
The reality is that no matter how the refugee policy is spun, it remains a mirror of the president's views about the people he likes and those from "s---hole countries" he doesn't. Turning our back on refugees is a stain on American values and traditions.
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