Welcome to the second installment of Niskanen’s new weekly migration blog; below is a list of three things that caught my attention this week.

#1: The first half of the fiscal year ends on Sunday (3/31). As of this morning, just 11,844 refugees have been resettled in the U.S. in FY 2019. Below is the map from the State Department that shows the number of refugees resettled by state.

The administration’s refugee ceiling for this year is just 30,000—the lowest ceiling since the modern resettlement program was created back in 1980. Even so, we are on pace to resettle far fewer than authorized — around 24,000.

The resettlement totals from the Middle East and Latin America regions are particularly eye-popping: just 8 and 9 percent of the regional caps have been hit at the halfway mark of the year.

Jen Smyers from Church World Service argues, “you’re not just changing policy for a couple of years; you’re dismantling decades of work and relationships that will be nearly impossible to rebuild.”

Takeaway: The U.S. domestic and international refugee resettlement infrastructure is being decimated under the Trump administration, not just by lowering caps, but by chipping away at the process and structures in place that allow for an efficient and expedient process. To course correct in the future will not just take altering cap numbers, but rebuilding and reshaping our resettlement infrastructure.

#2: More than 120 prominent Utah leaders in business, faith, and civil society reaffirmed their support for the Utah Compact on Immigration, a set of principles to guide discussions of immigration policy in the state.

The compact outlines a moderate, thoughtful approach to immigration issues, stating:

  • “We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders.”
  • “Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.”
  • “We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.”
  • “We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.”
  • “The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.”

Similar compacts have been signed by leaders in Iowa, Florida, and Texas in recent weeks.

Immigration policy is a complex and hot-button issue, but the American people are actually in agreement on core issues. We can advance policies and improve local communities when we focus on our like-mindedness. These compacts show us that consensus-building is happening across the country, providing a roadmap for where lawmakers could start new dialogues around immigration issues.

Takeaway: As Senator Lankford (R-OK) discussed last year at the National Immigration Forum, we should never stop asking the question, “where is the common ground?”.

#3: Last Monday, former President George W. Bush spoke at a naturalization ceremony hosted by the Bush Institute in Texas. Nearly 50 of the newest Americans hailing from 22 countries were sworn in at the event.

President Bush remarked, “amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength.” He went on to say new citizens, “bring a special love of freedom” to the country. USCIS reports that more than 7.4 million people were naturalized in the last decade.

These newest Americans spent years waiting their turn in the legal immigration process. They completed pages and pages of paperwork, learned U.S. history and English, and took an oath to our country. They are Americans by choice and replenish our national identity by embodying the values we hold sacred.

The length of the naturalization process has doubled to over ten months just in the last two years. Some offices—like those in St. Paul, Miami, or Houston—are so backlogged, it could take two years for applicants to naturalize. Much more focus needs to be put on ensuring the timely processing of immigrants who are ready, willing, and eligible to become American citizens.

Takeaway: Those waiting to ‘bring a special love of freedom to our country’ should not be waiting months or years to take the oath and finalize a dream they have been pursuing for years.

Recommend Weekend Reading:

Oren Etzioni: What Trump’s Executive Order on AI is Missing

Kristie De Pena: White House Proposes Hitting Sanctuary Cities Again: Is It Warranted?

Pia M. Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny: The U.S. Needs Workers, Not a Wall

Andrew Selee: Latin America’s Migration Lesson for the World

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels