Since Trump‘s travel ban was halted last week, the intake of refugees from the seven targeted countries has more than doubled.
Analysts said that the move is a coordinated effort by the State Department to let in as many refugees from these countries as possible, in case the ban is reinstated by the Supreme Court.
The travel ban halted all citizens from predominantly Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days – regardless of their immigration or residency status in the U.S.
The order also put America’s refugee program on an immediate 120-day halt, and stopped all refugees from Syria from entering the U.S. refugee program indefinitely.
The executive order caused chaos as soon as it was signed on January 27, with customs officials unsure what to do about people from the seven countries arriving at U.S. airports – unaware of the order.
Critics quickly filed challenges to the ban in court and on February 3, Judge James Robart halted the order on the basis that it was likely violating the law.
Since then, people from the seven countries are being allowed to enter the country and many are rushing to return to the U.S. in case the doors close again.
The State Department appears to be ramping up their efforts to let refugees from the seven countries into the U.S. as well.
In the week since the ban has been halted, 1,186 refugees have been let into the country – 882 of them from the seven travel ban countries.
That’s nearly double what the State Department was letting in in the week before Trump signed the order.
The intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees has changed the most dramatically since the order was halted.
Between Trump’s inauguration on January 20 and when he signed the ban on January 27, Syrians made up just 14 percent of the total refugees being let into the country. Since February 3, Syrians now make up 30 percent of all refugees entering the country. Iraq went from 10 percent of all refugees before the ban to 21 percent after.
Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the right-wing think tank Center for Immigration Studies, told the Washington Times the new numbers show that the State Department is prioritizing refugee resettlement over the security of American citizens.
‘There’s no doubt in my mind they would be doing whatever they could to get people in before something changes because, from their perspective, their motivation is to resettle these folks. It would not be the first time that State Department officials have prioritized facilitating someone’s entry to the United States over security concerns,’ Vaughan said.
But those who work in refugee resettlement say the increase could be a coincidence since the highest priority refugees – such as ones with urgent medical issues – are likely to be from the seven banned nations anyway.
‘What I would hope for is we find a way to communicate with this administration and find a way to sit down and understand why are these, what I’ll call alternative facts, about the danger of refugees being presented, because it’s just not correct,’ Erol Kekic, executive director of the Church World Service’s refugee program, told the Washington Times.
Trump’s reason for halting immigration from the seven countries is that he doesn’t believe that citizens from these nations are being screened enough before they enter the U.S. He says stopping immigration until the system can be revamped will prevent domestic terrorist attacks.
Many in the refugee resettlement community argue that the process is already strict enough, and that terrorists aren’t disguising themselves as refugees to get into the U.S., but Trump got an unlikely supporter in his beliefs from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this week.
The Syrian President said that some of the refugees that are fleeing his country are ‘definitely terrorists’.