Bloomberg Proposes Doubling America’s Intake of Refugees from Obama Years

US door closing: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in a camp in Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh
© AFP/File MUNIR UZ ZAMAN

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is promising to nearly double the intake of refugees admitted to the U.S. under the Obama administration.

Bloomberg, whom polls show is gaining traction in his quest for the 2020 Democrat nomination, released his proposal for overhauling America’s immigration and refugee laws on Monday. The plan, based on policies the mayor implemented during his tenure at the helm of New York City, is being touted as beneficial to not only the country’s diversity, but also its profit margins.

The proposal states:

As the grandson of immigrants, Mike understands that immigration has been and always will be one of America’s greatest strengths. His plan focuses on … tapping into the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants to grow our economy and enrich our communities.

One way that Bloomberg hopes to “grow and enrich” the economy is by increasing the number of refugees allowed into the country annually. If elected, Bloomberg hopes to accept 125,000 refugees if elected—nearly doubling the intake accepted under former President Barack Obama. A portion of the new refugees will be individuals fleeing the impact of climate change, an idea also favored by Bloomberg’s more progressive rivals, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer.

“During his first year in office, Mike will set the target for refugee admissions at 125,000, and—recognizing the changing conditions causing displacement—will also establish a precedent for people permanently displaced by climate change to qualify as refugees,” Bloomberg’s plan states.

The proposed numbers stand in stark contrast to the 18,000 refugees President Donald Trump’s administration is on track to accept between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020.

Trump’s refugee policy, which has shrunk the number of incoming individuals to levels unseen since 1980, is central to his agenda for raising wages and living standards for the American worker. The president and his allies have argued that a tight labor market benefits workers already in the country by pushing companies to invest in skill training and development. It also has the benefit of boosting wages, as there is a smaller pool of workers competing for open positions.

The president’s policy differs from that of his predecessor. During former President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House, the number of displaced persons being resettled in the U.S. increased drastically. Between 2008 and 2017, more than 67,000 refugees on average were admitted into the country. The total would have been larger if Republicans had not stymied Obama’s efforts to admit 110,000 displaced persons, most notably from Syria, during his final year in office.

Overall, as of 2005, nearly 860,000 refugees have been resettled across America—a large proportion going to areas that have lagged behind the rest of the country in economic growth since the Great Recession. The incoming refugees have stressed the already depleted resources of state and local governments. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that it costs taxpayers more than $64,000 over five years to resettle one Syrian refugee. To resettle an entire family, the cost estimate rises to more than $257,000 over five years.

Complicating matters is the education levels of recently admitted refugees has plummeted, according to data analyzed by CIS. In 1996, only 35 percent of incoming refugees lacked a high school diploma. By 2015, the number had skyrocketed to 51 percent. The low educational attainment levels help explain why 56 percent of refugee households received food stamps or other government benefits in 2015.

Despite the murky economic picture, Bloomberg is not only promising to accept more refugees, but he’s also lashing out at those who disagree. Last month, during a campaign swing through Texas, the former mayor attacked Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) for his decision to halt refugee resettlement.

“This is America. We shouldn’t be doing this,” the former mayor told The Dallas Morning News at the time. “It’s not good for Texas. It’s not good for America.”

“It’s certainly not good for the people who are trying to get here,” Bloomberg added, before claiming America was “too wealthy” to deny refugees.

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