Refugee resettlement is an increasingly divisive issue in the United States, especially in light of the recent travel bans imposed by President Trump on refugees from around the globe, and because of the new cap limiting refugee admissions to 50,000.
Our commitment to international laws and norms compels us as a nation to provide refuge to those fleeing the same war and violence we condemn, but national security concerns threaten the continuation of our global humanitarian responsibilities. Many lawmakers have concerns about resettling Muslim populations of refugees coming from Middle Eastern countries—primarily Syria—due to their potential ties to terrorist organizations.
In order to thoughtfully address the national security concerns regarding refugee resettlement, it is important to understand who refugees are, how they are vetted prior to coming to the United States, who bears the financial responsibility of resettlement, and how states can ensure resettlement efforts do not impact the health and safety of their populations.
This report provides an overview and evaluation of controlling federal laws that guide current refugee resettlement processes in the United States, the federal screening process, the three main approaches to providing refugee resettlement assistance in the states, and an overview of state lawsuits refusing Syrian refugees and challenging refugee resettlement.
Recommendations for mitigating risk while maintaining a robust resettlement program include increased information-sharing between the federal government and states, and consideration of state recommendations when it comes to settling refugees. Although the federal government retains explicit control over refugee resettlement in every state, these are areas ripe for cooperative improvement.
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