Reflecting on the Consequences of the United States’ Xenophobic Immigration Policy for World Refugee Day

AIUSA met this family outside their home in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. They would like to be resettled anywhere, and are unable to return to Syria.

By: Raven Ziegler, Tactical Campaigns Intern

Today is World Refugee Day. Today, we stand in solidarity with the men, women, and children who travel excruciating distances in a struggle to survive — who are often met with anti-refugee sentiments, xenophobia, racism and religious-intolerance in countries that should instead be havens. While the world continues to shut its doors, we urge you to empower refugees.

We exist in daunting times. Within his first week in office, President Donald Trump signed an order aimed at the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This infamous Muslim ban represented the discriminatory and restrictive policy trends yet to come.

During the first two years of Trump’s presidency, we’ve witnessed unprecedented attacks on our refugee resettlement infrastructure through successive refugee and travel bans; extreme cuts to US refugee admissions; drastic cuts proposed to refugee and humanitarian programs; extreme vetting procedures; and the drastic increase of inhumane immigrant detention.

In late November 2018, an Amnesty International USA delegation traveled to Jordan and Lebanon, where they spoke to nearly 50 refugee families and individuals living out the consequences of Trump’s discriminatory refugee and immigration policies.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International launched our latest report ‘The mountain is in front of us and the sea is behind us’: The Impact of US Policies on Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. This report sheds light upon the stories of the crippling impact of the Trump administration’s d damaging policies.

Ahmed and his family

Who has been affected?

Ahmed Amari,* his wife Amina* and their four young children are Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon. In 2016, after registering as refugees with the United Nations Refugee Agency, the U.S. accepted the Amari family for resettlement. Waiting to move to their new home in Virginia, their plans were derailed by the first iteration of Trump’s Muslim ban. Ahmed was told that he and his family would need to wait until the ban was over before his case was processed.

Two-and-a-half years after he and his family were initially cleared to travel to the United States, they are still stuck in Lebanon. Ahmed will soon lose his residency status there, exposing he and his family to the risk of arbitrary arrest, detention and forcible return to Syria. If returned to Syria, the family will be confronted with the violence of the state’s ongoing armed conflict and possible forced conscription into the Syrian Army — a fear he articulated to our team. In a tearful plea, Ahmed said that his family comes in peace, that they are victims, looking for security and safety. They are asking for help. To date, the Amari family is stranded in Lebanon, while the U.S. government continuously fails to keep its promise of resettlement.

Malik, Sana, and their sons

Malik Aziz,* his wife Sana* and their two sons are Iraqi refugees who fled to Lebanon. In 2016, the U.S. accepted the Aziz family for resettlement. While awaiting the final step of the resettlement process, the Muslim ban was signed. Since, Malik and his family have been overcome with uncertainty about where their future is headed.

Nearly two years after approval, the Aziz family continues awaiting finalization of their resettlement to the US. Despite registration with the UNHCR, the Aziz family does not have residency permits, which puts them at risk for arrest, detention and even deportation. Malik said, “We’re refugees because there are difficult situations that made us flee… We want to live; we want to live in peace.” To date, the Aziz family remains stuck in Lebanon, awaiting for finalization of their “security checks”.

Zainab* and her three children are Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon. In 2012, shrapnel hit the family’s vehicle. The car erupted in flames and the family survived only because onlookers pried them from the car. In search of adequate medical care and safety, the family fled to Lebanon. They live in a refugee camp where, in the past, they have received some humanitarian assistance from UNHCR. Because of funding cuts they have seen assistance from the UN decrease. Sometimes they are only able to afford one meal a day.

The conditions at the refugee camp continue to be desolate. Burdened with the emotional and physical scars of war, Zainab is unable to find work and her children are unable to attend school. However, Zainab carries hope with her because her children have dreams of being a schoolteacher, lawyer and computer engineer. Despite the desperate conditions they live in, the children believe in their ability to move beyond the refugee camp and fulfill their highest aspirations.

*Pseudonyms used to protect their privacy and security.

How can you help?

The US government has the power to change the lives of the refugees with whom Amnesty International met, and the many more whose story goes untold. You can be a beacon of change by showing your support for refugees. Help us ensure that the US government is held accountable for its obligations under international law, including to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Through collective action, we can empower refugee communities who are adversely affected by US policy. How do we do this? By taking action.

Here are a few ways you can help today:

1. Take action for the NO BAN Act, which would stop many of President Trump’s harmful policies aimed at refugees, including the current policies that have so drastically targeted refugees coming to the US.

a. Sign the online petition

b. Call 1–833–226–5217 to speak with your Member of Congress’ office. Thank or urge them to do more in support of refugees, including co-sponsoring the NO BAN Act (H.R. 2214/ S. 1123). Consider organizing a call-in party using the Ways To Welcome toolkit.

2. Take action for the Amari Family and call for them to be resettled to the United States swiftly. Sign the online petition here.

3. Take action for the Aziz Family and call for them to be resettled to the United States swiftly. Sign the online petition here.

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