The U.S. is stepping away from a U.N. agreement aimed at addressing the needs of migrants, saying it could “undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders,” according to the State Department.
The U.S. joined the global compact on migration in September 2016 under then-President Barack Obama. Under that declaration, countries aim to “protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status.”
About 65.6 million people have been displaced worldwide, the highest number of displaced people since World War II, because of conflict and other hardships. Of them, about 22.5 million are refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
The nearly 200 participating countries — now minus the United States — are negotiating a comprehensive approach to helping migrants. The final framework is slated for adoption next year. The decision came out just before the U.S. was to participate in a global conference on migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, aimed at assessing the progress of negotiations.
The terms of the declaration are “inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies and the Trump administration’s immigration principles,” according to a statement from the U.S. mission to the U.N.
The Trump administration’s policies include a ban on visitors from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. Federal courts have temporarily blocked the ban. (Update: The Supreme Court is letting the ban go forward while it is being challenged in lower courts.)
In addition, the Trump administration set a cap on refugees allowed to enter the U.S. at 45,000 in the 2018 fiscal year (19,000 from Africa, 5,000 from East Asia, 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia, 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 17,500 from the Middle East and South Asia). The previous cap, set under the Obama administration, was 110,000.
Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who wrote “The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World,” said the current administration appears to place more emphasis on preserving U.S. sovereignty and independence over being at the forefront of drafting the international guidelines.
The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord is another example, Patrick said. President Trump cited “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty” when announcing the U.S. departure in June, making the U.S. the lone holdout now that Syria has indicated it would sign the deal.
Both are nonbinding agreements.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Saturday in a statement that “no country has done more than the United States, and our generosity will continue. But our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone.”
“My own view is that this unfortunate,” Patrick said, because these were essentially “high-minded principles that were trying to suggest that in every country, migrants should be treated humanely.”