BOISE, Idaho — On Thursday President Trump announced his plan to cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States to an all-time low of 18,000, in a move that has been slammed by human rights groups, including ones here in Idaho.
Due to Trump's steady cuts since his time in office, Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of Idaho Rescue Committee in Boise, said the number of refugees coming to Idaho is also dropping dramatically. At one point, she said 1,300 refugees were welcomed to Idaho in a year. Now, she said that number has dropped to a "little over 550 in a year."
This-- due to recently boosted efforts to reduce immigration into the U.S., which according to the state department is intended to alleviate pressure on authorities at the southern border.
But it's not just human rights groups criticizing this move. In a letter to the White House obtained by the New York Times, penned earlier this month, dozens of retired Admirals, General and Flag Officers of the U.S. Military expressed their "grave concerns" about the administration's reduction of refugee admissions. Their arguments hinge largely on how the reduction would "not only put refugees in harm's way," but also, "further cycles of instability and insecurity in critical regions, increasing pressure on military action."
6 On Your Side spoke with local refugees in Idaho, as well as those working on behalf of refugees and their families.
"It is amazing to think when we have more people than ever displaced due to war and persecution, that we would be shutting our door and making the ability for people to come in harder and harder and harder," said Donnelly Tzul.
One member of the Boise refugee community said he has concerns for the civilians living in war-torn countries, as he once had.
"We could hear the shots at night. And in the morning, there was like three bodies outside of my house," said Saad Albader, Idaho refugee originally from Iraq.
Albader says all safety was lost in his homeland of Iraq in the early 2000s, recalling what he said is his own near-death experience of being abducted for ransom.
"I was taken in front of my son... ya know, [with] guns and things, and he was watching me all the way, until they put me n a car and they drove," said Albader.
Roughly five days later, while his wife and son feared the worst, he said he was released without torture by negotiation.
"I was lucky," said Albader.
But after that, he said, there was only one choice left to make: to seek refuge in the United States.
"I had to use that choice, because I had no other choices," he said.
The International Rescue Committee helped him in his resettlement to Boise, as they have with several thousand others.
"One of the record numbers that was welcome under a Republican presidency was 142,000 people, and now we're looking at 18 [thousand]. I mean-- the difference there is orders of magnitude," said Donnelly Tzul. "This is risk of loss of life, risk of being tortured-- um, often from live war situations."
This-- drawing concern in Albader.
"I mean, what are they going to do? Are we trying to help people, or are we trying to increase victims?"
Now, he says his son who-- as a young man watched his father get abducted-- is a graduate of Boise State and works at Micron.
"And I'm being promoted to be a grandfather shortly, so, yeah," he said, with a smile.
The target of 18,000 refugees is drastically lower than the former all-time low of 27,000 refugees admitted after the 9/11 attack.
The new capacity comes into effect in the next fiscal year.
The Grace Act is a bill pending in Congress, which would allow Congress to prohibit the executive branch from setting a minimum lower than the historic average of the program of 95,000 people per year. Idaho Rescue Committees is urging citizens to support the Grace Act by calling their congressional delegation representatives. Learn more about their suggested course of action by clicking here.