How might Trump's ban on refugees have a long-term impact on the USA?

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16 February
11:47
17 February
11:25

The largest impact for Americans will be country’s own shifting view of itself as a moral community, as a country that’s been historically relatively open to refugees and that has created nationalist myths about its importance as a nation of immigrants. For almost all refugees, too, the impact will be significant. Waiting times for relocation will get longer, suffering in overstuffed refugee camps will increase. More will die trying to reach Europe as asylum seekers. We don’t know yet how Canada’s going to respond; it has indicated a willingness to admit more refugees since the Trudeau government came to power. But Canada is a relatively small country; it cannot solve the world’s refugee crisis alone.

If the US ban expands or becomes permanent it will have an impact on the international humanitarian regime, since it means longer wait times in refugee camps, diminishing opportunities for refugees, second and third generations living in refugee camps and these refugee camps becoming permanent. For examples of that impact we might look at what happened in Jordan after WW2 – camps are now a permanent dimension of life in some countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon. In this sense the impact of an expanded or permanent ban could stretch through many future decades. More countries in Africa and western Asia will have large, permanent, multi-generational populations of restless refugees.

The impact on restrictions on refugees coming into the EU will have slightly different consequences. Because the EU has entered into agreements with borderland states like Ukraine and Turkey, more refugees will be stuck in transit in these countries, too, often with the opportunity of settlement. So more refugees will be permanently living in the countries where most of them already live today, in sites near the conflicts that they’re fleeing. I think the real question to ask about the US ban is whether it becomes permanent and whether it inspires other countries to follow its example, for example through further tightening of restrictions in other places such as the EU or in escalating anti-refugee xenophobia in the Asian and African countries where most refugees currently live.

From a security perspective I think all I can say that is the current U.S. ban would have done nothing to stop the 9/11 bombings; none of the people involved in that event came from the current banned countries. In fact, it’s my understanding that no refugee from any of the currently banned countries has committed a terrorist act in the United States in the past decade.

For the USA and Canada, two countries that have been relatively open to refugees in their history, the ban poses real moral questions about what they have been and will be as nations.

Aside from the ban, many of us working in the scholarly field expect mass deportation of undocumented migrants to begin in the next couple of months. Those deportations are likely to have a very significant and negative impact on the US economy. I know Trump’s supporters say that deportations will create jobs for them, but that hasn’t been the case historically, at least recently: in recent cases of localities and states imposing workplace bans on foreigners lacking papers, employers couldn’t find American workers to do the job. The state of Arkansas, for example, had to rescind its bans against workers without documents for exactly that reason.

I think for the USA and Canada, two countries that have been relatively open to refugees in their history, the ban poses real moral questions about what they have been and will be as nations. I believe that such moral concerns explain the spontaneous and truly massive demonstrations that erupted in the US immediately after the ban was imposed. If the Trump Administration continues the ban, or introduces more discriminatory measures such as a Muslim registry or the deportation of the undocumented, I think we can expect to see even more Americans protesting in streets all over the United States. 

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