In the bleak camps that are home to millions displaced by war and persecution around the globe, there are families that have been waiting years for a chance to rebuild shattered lives in the United States.
Some already had travel dates and had started selling off cooking pots and mattresses when President Trump ordered in January that the U.S. refugee resettlement program be put on hold for 120 days, while the government reviewed its vetting procedures for travelers from countries with ties to terrorism.
After a series of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed part of a revised order, a 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries, to take effect last month. Exceptions were made for people with a “bona fide relationship” to schools, employers, close family and other entities in the U.S.
Refugee admissions came to a halt Wednesday after a 50,000-person cap for the fiscal year was reached. We spoke to David Murphy, who heads the San Diego office of the International Rescue Committee, to find out what this will mean for the refugee families that his nonprofit helps settle here. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Which refugees get to come to the U.S.?
There are a couple of misperceptions about the refugee resettlement program, and one is that refugees can pick that they will come to the United States, when in fact it is the U.S. government that will go out and pick refugees that could be eligible for resettlement.
The process begins every year with a determination that is made by the sitting president [about the number who will be admitted]. For the last number of years, it was 70,000. Last year, in 2016, it was raised to 85,000, and then before President Obama left office, it was raised to 110,000 for this year.