The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies expresses deep concern over the draft Executive Order on refugee admissions leaked yesterday and calls upon President Trump to reject it. The sweeping order would suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in its entirety for 120 days, halve the number of refugee admissions, and halt refugee processing for Syrian nationals indefinitely. Although program-wide suspension is purportedly for implementation of additional security procedures, the refugee vetting system in its current form is already thorough and secure. If the order is signed, the U.S. would thus needlessly fail to provide safe haven to refugees for months or more—even as global humanitarian crises displace over 65 million people around the world, including 4.8 million Syrian refugees.
The draft Executive Order also targets certain Muslim-majority countries for a broad ban on visas to live, study, travel, and work in the United States. The Order places Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen on a preliminary list for at least 30 days. It also paves the way for more permanent designation of those countries and others by the Secretary of Homeland Security. This provision will likely result in a de facto long-term, impermissible ban on Muslim immigrants—an action that President Trump has stated he won’t pursue.
While purporting to protect against terrorism, the Executive Order conflates terrorists with the victims of terrorism who deserve refugee status. Moreover, the suspension, curtailment, and likely overhaul of our Refugee Admissions Program will broadly jeopardize the lives of persecuted people all over the world who previously looked to us for safe haven. These include, among others, Central American children and families facing gender-based violence and other horrific forms of persecution, who currently receive protection via in-country refugee processing. A separate Executive Order issued yesterday and strongly condemned by CGRS would lead to the mass incarceration of this same population at our borders. As we have reported previously, the majority of these individuals are bona fide refugees and should not be subject to punitive measures.
The United States must continue to welcome refugees irrespective of religion or national origin. The core tenets of the Refugee Convention specifically protect those persecuted on the basis of religion and national origin, in addition to political opinion, race, and membership in a particular social group. To discriminate against refugees on the grounds protected by the Convention itself would be a perverse violation of our international obligations, as well as of our Constitution and moral principles.
The draft Order correctly asserts that our immigration system should fight “bigotry and hatred,” and should not enable the oppression of “one race, one gender, or one sexual orientation.” As an organization committed to racial justice, women’s rights, and LGBTQ equality, we emphatically endorse these principles but absolutely refuse to condone the scapegoating of refugees and Muslim immigrants as a path forward. The Order misguidedly assumes that barring these groups will somehow advance human dignity and equality. Nothing could be further from the truth. To the extent that the Order seeks simply to ban human rights abusers, international and domestic laws already prohibit asylum and refugee status for those who willfully persecute others. Vilifying and excluding individuals on the basis of religion and national origin furthers no just cause whatsoever and flies in the face of our most cherished values.
We call on President Trump to reject the draft Order in its entirety.