The number of refugees settling in Connecticut and around the nation plummeted in 2018, the result of a clampdown on immigration by President Donald Trump.
This year, Connecticut took in just 149 refugees, who are foreigners fleeing violence and persecution. The majority of the refugees came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of State.
That’s a sharp decline from the 897 refugees who settled in Connecticut in 2016.
And the flow of refugees from from war-torn Syria has essentially ended: just 5 Syrian refugees found their way to Connecticut in 2018, compared with 367 just two years ago.
The drop is due to restrictions put in place by Trump, who cited national security concerns. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the administration’s policy of blocking arrivals from six Muslim-majority nations.
But the dwindling numbers have alarmed advocates for refugees.
“It’s shameful what we’re doing with refugees around the world,” said Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven, the state’s largest refugee resettlement organization.
“We used to be the world leader in this great humanitarian program,” George said. “Now we’re lagging far behind and really abdicating our role.”
The war in Syria has created more than 5 million refugees. In response to the crisis, former President Barack Obama declared that the U.S. would take in 110,000 refugees from Syria in 2017. But after Trump was elected, he immediately took steps to curtail illegal immigration and make it harder for those who seek to enter legally.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the Trump administration’s policy “a great tragedy” and said it is undercutting the reputation of the U.S. in the eyes of the rest of the world.
“We’re abdicating our responsibility,” said Malloy, a Democrat who has frequently criticized Trump. The travel ban “has codified a racial and religious prejudice” into law.
In 2015, the governor thrust himself into a national debate over immigration when he welcomed a refugee family from Syria to Connecticut after they had been turned away by the then-governor of Indiana, Mike Pence.
Malloy said the refugees who have settled in the state are “hard-working people…The president would gladly give them a death warrant.”
Since 2001, 800,000 refugees have come to the United States through the vetting process and not a single one has turned into a terrorist and killed an American here.
While Trump and others have say national security warrants the limits, George and other immigration advocates say refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. undergo rigorous security checks.
“Since 2001, 800,000 refugees have come to the United States through the vetting process and not a single one has turned into a terrorist and killed an American here,” George said.
According to the State Department, 92 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo came to Connecticut in 2018. Seventeen refugees came from Afghanistan, many through a special visa program that offers asylum to those who targeted because they worked for or helped the U.S. military.
Other refugee groups who settled in Connecticut in 2018 include ten people fleeing Burma, eight from Eritrea and six from Ethiopia, five from Guatemala, five from Russia and three from Bhutan.
The number of refugees entering the U.S. will be capped at 30,000 in fiscal 2019, the administration announced in September. The Trump administration said it was curtailing refugee admission because of a backlog of 800,000 pending asylum seekers.
“In consideration of both U.S. national security interest and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the time, according to the Washington Post.
George said he is hopeful the new Congress will change the refugee policy. “Americans want to welcome refugees into their communities, and Connecticut has been a great example of that,” he said.