Donald Trump probably doesn’t want his supporters to know this, but the US State Department has just decided to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country. According to the New York Times, “the result could be a doubling of refugees entering the country, from about 830 admitted during the first three weeks of [May 2017] to about 1,500 people per week by the end of [June 2017].”
That is good news for the tens of thousands of refugees waiting to enter the United States — and for the cause of human rights — but perhaps bad political news for Trump. And that’s probably why the State Department made this change as quietly as it did, announcing it not in the customary press conference, but via an under-the-radar email sent to private agencies that help resettle refugees.
Trump’s public pronouncements on refugee resettlement are well known: He’d prefer zero refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries, and he and his staff have formalized that wish in his controversial — and probably unconstitutional — “Muslim ban,” which has now been rejected three times by federal courts. Short of being allowed to implement a total ban, the Trump administration initially cut the total number of allowable refugees from all countries to a meager 50,000 per year — down from the previous quota of 110,000.
Now, the State Department has undercut his cut, notifying refugee groups that they could begin bringing people to the US “unconstrained by the weekly quotas that were in place.”
The change in policy came on the same day that a third federal court rejected Trump’s “Muslim ban,” but the New York Times says that the two are not related. In fact, says the Times article,
The department’s quotas on refugee resettlement were largely the result of budget constraints imposed by Congress in a temporary spending measure passed last fall. But when Congress passed a spending bill this month that funded the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the law did not include any restrictions on refugee admissions.
For people concerned about refugees’ suffering and human rights, it’s a positive step. For Trumpsters — if they notice [and it seems clear from the surreptitious rollout that the administration doesn’t want them to notice] — it could be seen as a betrayal of yet another campaign promise [a promise that the rest of us would be happy to see unfulfilled].
Did Trump know that this move was coming? [Does he know anything at all?] Did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson know? [Does he care about anything except oil?] You have to wonder if this under-the-radar shift is further evidence that, in Trumpworld, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
But if one of those hands ends up doing the right thing, that’s perfectly okay by me.