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Texas Sees Major Cuts in Refugees from Iraq, Syria in 2018

Refugee arrival numbers from fiscal year 2018 show sharp decreases in refugees from majority Muslim countries.

 

Domiz refugee camp
Domiz refugee camp, in northern Iraq, hosts around 65 000 Syrian refugees since its opening in April 2012. ECHO continues to fund partners like IOM to ensure basic services are available.

Texas welcomed 67 percent fewer refugees in fiscal year 2018 than in 2017, down to 1,697 people from 4,768.

Some of the starkest drops in refugee arrivals were from Iraq, Iran and Syria, majority Muslim countries.

Iraqi refugee resettlement dropped from 949 to 25 in Texas. The number of Syrian refugees went from 455 to just one in fiscal year 2018.

Sobia Siddiqui, communications coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Texas Chapter, said the cuts are discriminatory.

“Our president ran his campaign and one of his strongest and most vocal points is that he called for a ban on all Muslims,” said Siddiqui.

She said there are refugee families in Houston who can’t be reunited with family members facing dangerous situations abroad because of the ban.

“There’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about if people will be able to have their families rejoin them back here in the United States or even in Houston,” said Dan Stoecker, CEO of The Alliance, which offers refugee services in Houston. 

Stoecker said cuts to refugee resettlement are coming during a historic humanitarian crisis.

A record 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

“Syria and Iraq are two of the greatest areas of conflict on the planet right now,” said Stoecker. His organization resettled the single Syrian refugee in Texas and he attributes drops in refugees from Syria and Iraq to the travel ban.

The U.S. Department of State denies that the ban discriminates based on religion.

“There is no ban on any nationality or religion,” a department spokesperson said in a written statement.

The statement went on to say, “The number of FY 2018 refugee arrivals (22,491) is consistent with the U.S. government’s operational capacity and screening and vetting procedures following the President’s issuance of Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

Executive Order 13780 is a revised iteration of the President Trump’s original travel ban, which had been challenged in courts and struck down. The prior executive order, which some referred to as a “Muslim ban”, barred entry from several majority Muslim countries, including Iraq and Syria.

A report by the International Rescue Committee shows that, nationwide, Muslim refugees were more likely to be impacted by refugee cuts than Christians.

On Thursday, the Department of State made official refugee admissions for 2019, with a cap of 30,000, the lowest number in the history of the refugee resettlement program. This comes after a year of record low refugee arrivals.

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