WASHINGTON – Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Kuwait, called on President Trump to lift the cap on refugee admissions to at least 75,000.
The White House is reportedly considering a cap on annual refugee admissions to fewer than 50,000.
To make his case, Crocker, who served during the presidencies of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, referred to the Statue of Liberty.
“It’s right there on the Statue of Liberty – ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ Look, virtually all of us came here from somewhere else. It is quite literally who we are. It also has a major political dimension,” Crocker said Monday during a conference call organized by Church World Service.
“The United States, sadly, has not, in recent years, led on the issue of refugees and we have seen the impact that has had on European solidarity and unity. The United States has led the world since World War II, over 70 years, and it’s hard to think of an issue more important than refugees for the U.S. to lead now,” he added.
Crocker considers allowing 75,000 refugees into the U.S. an “absolute minimum.”
“If we don’t make that gesture, we are damaging something unique to us as Americans,” Croker said. “And also, if we don’t make that gesture, we are much more broadly moving away from American leadership on this issue and on others.”
“Look, I’ve served in places that sadly generate a lot of refugees. These are not terrorists,” he added. “These are all too often people who are fleeing terror so, you know, we need to take a stand here. And I hope very much it is going to be a stand that once again reinforces both our values and our interests.”
Crocker said U.S. reductions in the number of overall refugee admissions would lead to more “European disunity.”
“There have been two world wars that came about through European disunity. We don’t need to risk another major conflict, but this really concerns me. On refugees, if we don’t lead no one else can – and the consequences are the kind of disunities that are now appearing all over Europe,” Crocker said.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump took a strong stance against increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. His Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, supported increasing the number of refugee admissions specifically from war-torn Syria to 65,000.
Crocker told PJM that the Obama administration failed to lead on refugees, which has left an opening for Trump to fill.
“We all know in our political system there is often some distance between what candidates say during the campaign and what later becomes policy faced with the stark realities of leading the greatest nation on earth. So, I very much would hope that the president will take a long, close look on this to recognize both the moral and the strategic implications of a failure of U.S. leadership in this area,” he said.
“And I would point out that the failure we’ve seen thus far was really in the Obama administration, where they simply chose not to lead,” the ambassador added. “Well, this is a chance for President Trump to carve out a different position and restore us to where I certainly believe we should be.”
PJM asked Crocker how he would convince a skeptical Trump voter to support admitting more refugees from Syria and other countries in the Middle East.
“How do you convince a skeptical voter? Well, it starts with leadership and I would certainly like to see political leaders of both parties make this a high-priority issue,” he replied. “Again, it’s who we are. It’s where we ourselves came from and, most fundamentally, it’s where we are going to go in the 21st century – as a leader or not as a leader.”