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Md. stands with those Trump banned

It was one year ago last week the Trump administration enacted its first travel ban against refugees. For the 120 days that followed, this White House turned its back on the most vulnerable populations on our planet — 75 percent of whom in 2016 were women and children.

For the months that followed, reckless apathy, bans and serious policy miscalculation underscored each new development, stringing together refugee and immigration policy. Vulnerable families were dealt insult on injury with every new version of the ban. The ban was not alone: From the Central American Minors program applicants, to those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), it became a year of turmoil for families who were promised safety – which was, and is, badly needed — and subsequently denied it the United States. Our humanitarian leadership seemed lost.

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Today, there are 65 million people displaced from their homes across the world, 22 million of which are registered refugees. Of those, only less than 1 percent — the most critical cases — are resettled. These include brave people who helped our armed forces at the risk of their own lives, women and children in grave danger, and people with urgent medical concerns who cannot be treated in camps. In fiscal 2017, the International Rescue Committee offices in Baltimore and Silver Spring were supposed to welcome around 1,500 refugees — but only around 1,000 were able to arrive past the Trump administration’s measures. This year is sizing up to be worse for those we’ve promised to protect: IRC anticipates fewer than 700 refugees. At the national level, only 5,323 refugees arrived to the U.S. in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, or less than 12 percent of the 45,000 refugee cap. We estimate around 20,000 refugees will ultimately make it to the United States at this rate — an abysmal departure from American moral and diplomatic leadership.

Yes, there are great refugees who are an asset to this country. But there are also ones we should not admit.

The tool to face these global challenges is our carefully-crafted and gold standard refugee resettlement program. The program has a storied tradition. It is a truly bipartisan effort that enshrined our national aspiration to tackle global problems right here with the understanding that families ought to be together, that our children should have a better future than we had, that hard work — persistence, strength, and character — would be treasured in this country. President Ronald Reagan began this tradition, and the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama strengthened it — for our safety, our creativity, our collective success.

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That hard work and character is something that the IRC in Baltimore sees come alive day in and day out in the brilliant people we have the opportunity to serve.

Within months of leaving refugee camps and escaping violence and persecution, these new Americans were settling down in the Baltimore metro area, working hard, paying taxes and contributing to our own community in different ways.

The Trump administration says it will lift a partial ban on refugees from 11 countries.

Bhutanese refugees have built two community gardens in the Frankford communities. Others have purchased their first home in the city. Local business, including Atwater's in Belvedere Square, have hired hundreds of refugees over the past year. They know from experience that refugees show up every day and work hard in order to rebuild their lives and feed their families. The national numbers support this conclusion as well. In 2015, there were 181,463 refugee entrepreneurs, who generated $4.6 billion in business income.

On average, the U.S. spends $15,148 in refugee relocation costs and $92,217 in social benefits per capita over a 20 year period. Over that same time the average refugee adult pays $128,689 in taxes — over $21,000 more than the benefits received. As the assault on refugee families continued to unfold through the year, we stood with them. We believe in them.

Despite a third iteration of the travel ban, the careless cancellation of CAM-AOR (Central American Minors Affidavit of Relationship), the embarrassingly low refugee cap, extreme increases to a vetting system that’s already proven to be robust, and the recent cancellation of TPS status for Salvadorans — tearing them apart from their 193,000 U.S. citizen children — IRC will continue to be at the forefront, standing with refugees and communities in need of protection. In 2018, we, in Maryland, will stand with the banned.

Ruben Chandrasekar is executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Maryland; his email is Ruben.Chandrasekar@rescue.org.

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