Temple: Support Philadelphia refugee centers

As more refugee centers shut down, the university should contribute to Philadelphia locations.


Last month, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it plans to reduce the cap for refugees entering the United States.

Next year, only 30,000 people will be allowed in the country, which is 15,000 people less than the 2018 cap.

This would be the lowest implemented by any president since the refugee program’s inception in 1980.

This decision threatens pro-refugee legislation for decades to come, as the decrease in refugees entering the country reduces the demand for refugee resettlement centers. Nine nonprofit organizations across the country were forced to close refugee resettlement centers and cut staff due to the declining number of refugees entering the country, The Atlantic reported in September.

The university should help finance these struggling resettlement centers, and if the university doesn’t have the funds, students should raise some.

There are 68.5 million people who have been displaced worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And only about one percent of these people will get the opportunity to be resettled and begin a new life in a new country.

Resettlement centers are crucial, as they provide refugees with resources they need to become unified members of society. If we don’t act, Trump’s cap could be detrimental to refugee centers in Philadelphia. Temple University, which prides itself in its dedication to community and diversity, should make a concentrated effort to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

“As a country that preaches ‘Liberty and justice for all,’ and taking in the tired and huddled masses, we should be more encouraging of entrance into the United States,” said Olivia O’Donnell, a freshman political science and economics major.

“There are so many people wanting to seek asylum or find a better life in the United States, and to not even grant them the opportunity is so wrong,” O’Donnell added. “It’s entirely against what our country should stand for.”

Refugee arrivals in Pennsylvania decreased by nearly two-thirds between April 1 to Oct. 1, 2016 and the same period in 2017, WHYY reported. And in most cases, this sharp decline means refugee centers will have to lay off employees and shut down entire resettlement centers.

As a result, there will be less stable transitions for those seeking asylum, which will only exacerbate their struggles. It also means politicians can see the lack of resettlement centers as a way to write off the refugee crisis as unsolvable, therefore affecting refugee legislation in our city, even after Trump leaves office.

“If the number of centers is declining, there may be a kind of circular logic that emerges where the people who aim to reduce the number of refugees entering the country might be able to point to the declining number of centers as a rationale for reducing the number of individuals allowed into the country,” said Michael Hagen, a political science professor.

It’s an unfortunate case of supply and demand, and the Trump administration is exploiting that to have the last word in the debate over refugees entering the U.S. That is of course, unless we fight against it.

Temple, as one of the largest universities in Philadelphia, has a moral responsibility to its community to ensure people seeking asylum have the security of critical resources, like resettlement centers.

Monetary help isn’t enough, however. Temple faculty, administrators and students — especially those working or studying disciplines like political science or law — should volunteer at these organizations. This would provide free labor to financially struggling institutions that help the community.

Student organizations like the Temple Refugee Outreach have made significant efforts to aid refugee centers in Philadelphia like hosting fundraisers and actions for refugee communities in the U.S. Although the organization could not be reached for comment on this story, I applaud them for their advocacy work to protect this vulnerable population. But I haven’t seen any legitimate efforts by the university’s administration to match this drive for community involvement.

As a university that’s made a significant mark on Philadelphia, Temple needs to embrace its role in the community and fight against the injustice the presidential administration’s refugee plan places on Temple community members, students and families.

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