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June 13, 2017

New Analysis Reveals Trump Administration Slashing Resettlement of Muslim Refugees

Washington, D.C.—As the Supreme Court reviews President Trump’s request for stays of the preliminary injunctions against the travel and refugee bans in his revised executive order, Human Rights First today released a new analysis showing that nearly five months into President Trump’s term, the number of refugees resettled to the United States has fallen, plummeting particularly sharply for the seven countries that were targeted by the president’s January 27 executive order. The data signals that U.S. agencies, under the Trump Administration, have sharply decreased the resettlement of Muslim refugees.

“A review of refugee admissions since President Trump took office show a marked decline in Muslim refugee resettlement. Our analysis calls into question the Trump Administration’s insistence that the executive orders were not borne out of religious animus,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley.

Today’s data shows that in the 143 days since President Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the number of refugees resettled to the United States has fallen by 61 percent when compared to the 143-day period prior to the inauguration. The number of refugees resettled from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, the seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in the president’s executive order, has however dropped by 69 percent.  This reduction is 15 percent greater than the 54 percent decrease in resettlement from other countries. The rate of resettlement of Muslim refugees during this time fell by 68 percent, while resettlement rates fell by 55 percent for non-Muslim religious groups on average.

Although the president’s revised March 6 executive order rescinded the indefinite ban on Syrian resettlement, and the resettlement provisions of both orders have been enjoined by federal courts, the United States has dramatically cut its resettlement of refugees from Syria in these 143 day—a decline of 76 percent.  

The number of Iraqis resettled has also plummeted, falling by 72 percent.  Many of the Iraqis awaiting U.S. resettlement are individuals whose lives are at risk because of their work for, or association with, the United States military or government. Congress passed a special law, called the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, to make sure that Iraqis who were in danger due to their ties to the United States could be brought to safety through the U.S. resettlement program.  At least 50,000 Iraqis are awaiting completion of their processing through this special program designed to protect those targeted due to their U.S. affiliations.   

A closer look at the numbers for the period after the Hawaii district court blocked President Trump's revised executive order—thereby barring the administration's attempt to halt refugee admissions and slash the refugee admissions target to 50,000, when comparing the same period in 2016—refugee resettlement was still significantly reduced (by more than half), and dropped particularly sharply for refugees from countries listed on the travel bans. Comparing these periods revealed that refugee resettlement from travel ban countries decreased by 64 percent, while resettlement from non-travel ban countries only experienced a decrease of 41 percent. Resettlement of Muslim refugees decreased by 65 percent whereas resettlement of non-Muslim refugees only decreased by 39 percent. 

These shifts signal that U.S. agencies, under the Trump Administration, have sharply decreased the resettlement of Muslim refugees and Muslim refugees from the seven Muslim majority countries targeted by the executive orders. All of this has happened despite the fact that President Trump rescinded EO 13769 including the provisions to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees and prioritize religious minorities, and the courts have largely enjoined the executive orders’ provisions relating to refugee resettlement, and travel bans for nationals of the targeted Muslim majority countries.          

The United States, pursuant to its commitments under the Refugee Convention and its Protocol, has committed to not discriminating against refugees due to their religions or nationality, in addition to religious liberty protections enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

“The Supreme Court should not grant President Trump’s request for a stay of both preliminary injunctions enjoining the travel and refugee bans; doing so would further exacerbate the president’s discriminatory refugee admissions policy,” added Quigley.

For more information or to speak with Quigley contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.