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Trump Administration Considers Eliminating Office to Protect Refugees

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration is vital to US engagement with the global refugee crisis currently and its elimination would hurt both US diplomacy and the world’s most vulnerable populations. You can take action on this issue here.

Since US President Donald Trump took office, the State Department has been shrinking through budget cuts, hiring freezes, and mass departures.

Now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the current head of the department, is allegedly weighing whether to eliminate its Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, according to Politico.

In a letter obtained by Politico, 43 former US diplomats, national security officials, and humanitarian heads urge Pompeo to maintain the office for its myriad benefits including its ability to provide security intelligence, enable better control of humanitarian aid, and manage migration flows.

Take Action: Call on Leaders to Adopt Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants, Everywhere

"We're very concerned that one of the options will be the elimination of the bureau and we're very concerned for two reasons: The symbolic message that is sent when you eliminate a bureau that has refugees in its name. And No. 2 the fact that those authorities under the direct control of the secretary of state give the secretary enormous leverage of political issues of conflict and humanitarian aid," an unnamed former US official who had signed the letter, told Politico.

According to Reuters: "Among the aid groups that signed the letter was Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief; David Miliband, president of International Rescue Committee; Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration; Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense; and Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps.”

The bureau, which has a budget of $3.1 billion, is distinct from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which helps refugees adapt to life in the US, and has a budget of $53 billion through the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Instead, the Bureau’s mission is to “provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world on behalf of the American people by providing life-sustaining assistance, working through multilateral systems to build global partnerships, promoting best practices in humanitarian response, and ensuring that humanitarian principles are thoroughly integrated into US foreign and national security policy.”

Read More: This Is What It Actually Costs Countries to Accept Refugees

If the agency is eliminated, it could alter how the US engages with the refugee crisis, diplomacy with fragile states, and more, according to Politico.

“We believe this would be an error of grave proportion, and we would urge close consultation with the US Congress before such a critically important measure is even considered,” the letter reads.

Since President Trump took office, US foreign policy, refugee services, and immigration control have dramatically changed. Scores of ambassador posts have gone unfilled, a ban on migration from Muslim-majority countries has been upheld, traditional alliances have been weakened, refugee resettlement has hit a 40-year low, and deportations have skyrocketed alongside calls for a draconian immigration system.

Read More: The US Has Missed Its First Deadline to Reunite Separated Families

Getting rid of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration would further shift the administration in this hostile direction, according to the letter obtained by Politico.