The Party Platforms and Refugees

by Jason Dzubow on September 5, 2012

in Asylees and Refugees

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The platforms of the various political parties are basically statements about what those parties believe and what they intend to do if elected.  Since it is now election season (the joy), I thought it might be interesting to see what the party platforms have to say about refugees, so here we go:


The Republican Party Platform is the only platform that directly references our country’s commitment to refugees.  The Platform states:

We affirm our country’s historic tradition of welcoming refugees from troubled lands.  In some cases, they are people who stood with us during dangerous times, and they have first call on our hospitality.

“My wife owns a couple of refugees.”

This is a positive statement, and it is encouraging.  As an asylum attorney, I particularly like the second sentence, which acknowledges that some refugees are people who stood with the United States and now face persecution in their homelands.  I represent many people from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who assisted the U.S., often at great risk to themselves.  My clients include law enforcement officers, journalists, interpreters, human rights workers, and others.  Given that they risked their lives to help us in our mission, we should offer them refuge when needed.

Unfortunately, of late, we have heard many anti-Muslim statements from prominent members of the Republican party.  It seems that such bigotry is inapposite to the Party Platform, which recognizes people like my Muslim clients who “stood with us during dangerous times.”  I hope that the spirit of the Platform–rather than the hatefulness of some Republican officials–will prevail in the Grand Old Party.


The Democratic Party Platform does not specifically mention refugees.  It does discuss immigration, and endorses comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act, and the new Deferred Action program.  However, it is disappointing that the Platform is silent on refugee issues.

“If you’re a refugee and you live in a tent, you didn’t build that.”

Since President Obama has been in office for several years, we can safely assume that his policy on refugees and asylees will continue forward if he is re-elected.  The Obama Administration has capped the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. at 80,000 per year.  However, we have never reached the cap.  In 2009, we admitted 74,602 refugees; in 2010, we admitted 73,293; and in 2011, we admitted 56,384 refugees.  As for asylees, we admitted 22,219 in 2009; in 2010, we admitted 21,056; and in 2011, we admitted 24,988 (all of this is courtesy of the DHS Yearbook of Immigration Statistics).

President Obama’s policies have been comparable with his predecessors, and I think we can expect similar policies if he has a second term.

Libertarian Party

Since I have an affinity for third parties, I thought I would mention two.  The first is the Libertarian Party.  The party’s Platform is silent on refugee issues.  The only mention of human rights is in the context of property law: “Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights.”  The Platforms mentions immigration and states:

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws.

Given the general Libertarian philosophy (“We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid”), I’d imagine that they would leave refugee assistance up to private individuals and agencies, such as churches or humanitarian NGOs.  Like much of Libertarianism, this is nice in theory, but has problems in practice.  For various reasons, refugees impact national security and relationships between nations.  For this reason, governments cannot always leave refugee policy in the hands of private organizations.

Green Party

Finally, the Green Party Platform mentions refugees several times, but always in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel.”

While I support the rights of Palestinian refugees, this is pretty ridiculous.  Why single out Palestinians among all the world’s refugees while at the same time completely ignoring refugees from other countries, including many who are living (and dying) under worse conditions than the Palestinians?  It seems to me that this is not a serious party platform, which is unfortunate, as we could certainly use a strong, articulate liberal voice on this and other issues.

OK, so there you have it.  To judge solely by party platform, I’d say that the Republicans win on the refugee issue, though I suppose the win is mostly by default.

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