Throughout history, the United States has been a beacon of hope, a city on a hill that shines the light of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness throughout the world. President Trump’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year seeks to reduce funds for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration from $3 billion to $320 million and to limit the number of refugee resettlements to 30,000 a year – a huge reduction for a nation that has historically admitted an average of 90,000 refugees per year. President Trump’s proposal is heartbreaking and will destroy millions of people’s lives around the world.
I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and grew up there during the worst years of the troubles. In 2002, I had the great good fortune of moving here to Maine. My heart breaks when I think of the millions of people who continue to suffer in very hostile environments around the world, including the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, where I am from. Many people live in extreme poverty. Those living in refugee camps must make do on 25 pounds of food per month. In some locations, children live close to the edge of death. Parents suffer terribly when they are unable to provide for their kids. Many children cannot access an education, and are at high risk of being exploited for sexual and labor trafficking, or for military service by terrorist groups. Most refugees are people who began life as independent and productive members of society but, because of circumstance, are forced to live at the mercy of the international community. Their loss of independence hurts them deeply. The United States should be advocating for the welfare of these people, not turning its back on them.
The closing of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration will mean that family reunification will become increasingly challenging, leaving families divided, and those already in this country will be devastated. Ironically, it will mean that legal migration to the United States will become much more difficult, and push people to seek alternate ways of getting into the county. President Trump talks about the importance of following rules of legal migration, but he is proposing almost totally shutting off legal avenues to migration.
A common proverb in Kinyamulenge says it all for me: “Where there is not hatred and division, the skin of a flea can be slept on by two people.” Meaning: Where there is love, everything is possible. In a world where 68 million people have been forcibly displaced, shouldn’t the United States show a little more humanity?