The United States Refugee Act in the Trump era

The aim and purposes of the Refugee Act of 1980, though humanitarian, have been undermined by the Immigration and Naturalization’s (“INA”) provision granting the president the authority to set limits and exclude certain classes of “aliens”. Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, presidents have exercised this power to exclude certain classes of aliens and refugees from the United States citing the provisions of Section 212(f) of the INA. Relying on these broad powers and claiming national security interests, President Trump has exercised his executive privilege to limit the total number of refugees to 45,000 in 2018 (Trump, 2017). In addition, the president signed a proclamation banning entry of foreign nationals from seven different countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen (Proclamation 9645, September 24, 2017); no other president has issued such expansive exclusions of foreign nationals in his Executive Orders. Using a policy analysis framework adopted from Jillian Jimenez (2010), this paper will examine the history of the Refugee Act in light of the restrictions of Section 212(f) and the impact of Trump’s recent Executive Orders and Proclamations.