President Trump isn’t one to let a little cognitive dissonance get in the way of a nice dinner. So he didn’t miss Thursday’s gala fundraiser at the Kuwaiti embassy for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), held at a time when his administration is barring a record number of refugees from entering the US.
Since 1980, presidents have set a ceiling on how many refugees the US may admit each year. That cap ranged from over 100,000 under Bush Sr and Clinton to around 80,000 for most of Bush Jr and Obama’s administrations. Trump recently lowered the ceiling to 45,000, the lowest it’s ever been, over the objections of the Pentagon, joint chiefs of staff, state department, and Vice-President Pence, all of whom wanted it higher. Trump is also seeking to enact new rules designed to block refugees from reuniting with family members and grind the resettlement process to a halt.
Why is the US turning its back on refugees who are fleeing humanitarian disaster and a group we consider a mortal enemy? As a recent New Yorker report details, this is largely the doing of Stephen Miller, Trump’s hardline anti-immigration immigration adviser.
In a White House characterized by organizational chaos, paranoia and general incompetence, a 32-year-old ex-Hill staffer with basic knowledge of the policy process can emerge as a one-eyed king in an administration of the blind.
Thus Miller has usurped the power of the National Security Council, state and defense departments to set refugee policy by himself, beyond the bounds of his formal authority, which is domestic, not foreign policy. Out of his depth as he is, his arguments are also unbounded by things like evidence and reason.
Miller’s, and thus Trump’s, fears are threefold: refugees are an economic, security, and cultural threat to the US.