Colorado Dems Speak Out After Trump Administration Nearly Halves The Number Of Refugees Allowed To Settle In The U.S.

Jim Anderson/AP Photo
Colorado refugees hold signs during a World Refugee Day rally at the state Capitol in Denver on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Democratic Colorado lawmakers have called on the Trump administration to reverse its decision to cut the number of refugees allowed to settle in the U.S.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow and Joe Neguse expressed concern over the cuts.

“At a time when we are facing record-high levels of displacement, the United States should continue to accept refugees into communities that are apt to welcome them,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “More than half of those individuals are children. The U.S. has a long history of resettling refugees who have fled persecution due to their religion, race, nationality, political opinion or social group.”

The administration wants to nearly halve the number of refugees allowed to settle in the U.S. in 2020, from 30,000 to 18,000. The State Department submitted a report on the proposed number of refugee admissions to Congress. In the resettlement program’s nearly 40 years, the admission has averaged 95,000 annually.

Nga Vuong-Sandoval, a former refugee who fled Vietnam with her family and resettled in Colorado Springs, lobbied on behalf of the refugee resettlement program with Church World Service and Refugee Council USA in Washington, D.C earlier in September. She was upset by the cuts.

Photo courtsey of Nga Vuong-Sandoval
(L to R) Pastor Ike Nicholson, Rev. Joan Bell-Haynes, Ms. Nga Vuong-Sandoval and Rev. Mark Pumphrey talk with Colorado lawmakers about refugee admissions.

“It's beyond inhumane and disappointing,” Vuong-Sandoval said. “This admissions cap is essentially a death sentence for millions of humans. Refugees are invaluable assets and enrich this nation immensely.”

Colorado Refugee Coordinator Kit Taintor said this cap is the lowest number of refugees allowed to settle in the U.S. ever. Local agencies will likely be affected the most by the decision, she said.

“Resettlement agencies in Colorado over the years have diversified their service offerings,” Taintor said. “They're not just offering services for new arrivals, like helping the apartments get set up or getting kids enrolled in school, they're also helping out over the long term.”

Tainter is worried about the refugees who are already in the United States or Colorado and won’t be able to reunite with family members who are still overseas.

Nina Zelic with Lutheran Family Service Rocky Mountain agreed, and said there are many refugees in the community who are already living in a state of fear and the unknown.

“The impact is on the human lives and on our friends and neighbors and people’s inability to reunite with family. And just the people who have been stuck overseas and who have been waiting years to come to the United States for safety and to start a new life,” Zelic said.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, was circulating a letter to his colleagues in the House to send to Pompeo in the coming days, a spokeswoman with his office said Friday. Reps. Scott Tipton and John Curtis of Utah have agreed to sign the letter.