Number of refugees entering US drops drastically, advocates say

Local organizations say Trump administration is 'dismantling' decades-old resettlement program

Cherri Gregg
September 06, 2018 - 3:18 pm
Jan 30, 2017; Springfield, Missouri; Leila Ismaio (left) and Karina Bratkov lead a group of protestors around the Park Central Square protesting against President Trump's immigration policies.

© Nathan Papes-USA TODAY Sports

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A coalition of Philadelphia-area refugee advocacy groups held a press conference Thursday sounding the alarm on the drastic drop in the number of refugees arriving in the U.S. 

Advocates say the Trump administration is trying to dismantle a decades-old program.

When the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program began in 1980, the U.S. accepted more than 200,000 refugees from around the world. Over the years, the number averaged around 75,000, but President Donald Trump lowered the ceiling to 45,000. In practice, however, the program may only hit 20,000 this year — the lowest in the program's 38-year history.

"What's happening will dismantle the program and needs to be stopped," said Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS Pennsylvania. She joined the Nationalities Service Center and other groups citing the Trump administration's reallocation of resources that have left the refugee program understaffed.

"It really saved our lives," said former Philadelphia Solicitor Sozi Tulante, who came to Philadelphia in the '80s. His father was a political prisoner in Zaire. Wilson said the program saves the lives of those persecuted by political, religious and war forces — and keeps the peace.

"What would you do if you have nowhere to go and nowhere to turn?" Miller-Wilson asked.