I am proud that one of America’s greatest qualities is our steadfast generosity and willingness to welcome families who have faced circumstances most of us cannot fathom, including war and ethnic cleansing. Refugees are among the world’s most vulnerable people, and America has embraced about 3 million of them since 1980.
Every year, the U.S. government must determine the number of refugees we can admit into the country. The process requires comprehensive and time-consuming background checks and other security measures. This week, after consulting with other federal agencies, the Department of State proposed resettling as many as 30,000 refugees in the U.S.
In addition to refugee cases, a backlog of 800,000 people seeking asylum — another way the U.S. offers protection — already exists in our system, leaving many families in legal limbo for years. We anticipate an additional 280,000 people in the next year will seek this kind of protection. Each of these cases must be carefully decided, and we are more determined than ever to resolving them in a timely manner.
America’s commitment to the most vulnerable also extends well beyond our immigration system. We are putting a new focus on increasing assistance to refugees and other displaced people as close to their home countries as possible. We can house, feed and provide medical care for hundreds of thousands more refugees closer to their homes, and do so more rapidly, than we could possibly do here in the U.S. We are also prioritizing the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries when conditions permit — a solution that most refugees prefer.
President Donald Trump pledged to keep the American people safe by more carefully vetting those who want to come to our country, while also prioritizing processing cases of those who are already here. I believe we can achieve the ideal of continuing to assist the world’s most vulnerable people without losing sight of our first duty: serving the American people. We are, and continue to be, the most generous nation in the world.
Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in USA Today on September 21, 2018.