HIAS' Mark Hetfield: US Falling Short on Migrants

To the Editor:

In “Obama Is Pressed to Speed Effort to Add Migrants” (front page, May 31), the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, says, “When you step back and look at the longer-term picture in terms of the United States’ record on the U.N. refugee program, it’s hard for other countries to criticize.”

Indeed, over the last 40 years, the United States has admitted more than three million refugees, including 207,000 in 1980 alone, the year the Refugee Act of 1980 was passed in response to the Indochinese, Cuban and Soviet Jewish refugee crises.

During the Obama administration, however, the United States Refugee Admissions Program has strangled itself with red tape and bureaucratic checks that can take years to navigate, with thousands getting stuck without resolution because refugees are given no information as to why their cases are being delayed or denied. They cannot overcome information that is not shared with them.

Is the only way we can be safe by being slow? Why were we so much swifter to accept refugees fleeing Communism than those now fleeing Islamic extremism and a brutal dictator?

Donald Trump’s wall has already been built, and it is made of paper and red tape. We need to totally redesign the Refugee Admissions Program to better show the rest of the world how to welcome those who flee persecution.


Silver Spring, Md.

The writer is president and chief executive of HIAS, a global Jewish refugee aid group.

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