The Trump administration has appointed a White House aide with anti-immigration views for a top post at the State Department, which would entail supervising refugee admissions.
Andrew Veprek has reportedly been appointed as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (PRM). The selection has upset pro-immigration activists who fear this selection could indicate the government’s plan to completely scrap the U.S. Refugee Settlement Program.
Veprek reportedly has close ties with senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller and is believed to share similar hard-line immigration views as Miller.
The appointment comes as another blow to the country's already dismantling refugee program under Trump.
“My experience is that he strongly believes that fewer refugees should be admitted into the United States and that international migration is something to be stopped, not managed,” stated a former U.S. official.
Reports have emerged that some PRM officials may resign in protest to Verpek, who allegedly seemed “vindictive” about cutting down number of refugees and immigrants into the United States.
Veprek played a prominent role in the Trump administration's decision to back away from signing a non-binding global pact on migration issues in December. During this time, he worked closely with Miller, who had previously tried to broker a deal providing protection to DREAMers in exchange for stricter immigration policies. In addition to this, Miller is allegedly one of the masterminds behind Trump’s Muslim ban.
The website for PRM states the department aims to provide “aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people… through repatriation, local integration and resettlement in the United States,” but Veprek’s ideals seem contradictory to the mission statement of the department he is supposed to lead.
This is not the first time the White House has appointed officials with hard-line immigration views to an immigration department post. Trump’s choice for the U.N. International Organization for Immigration, Ken Isaacs, was notorious for making derogatory comments specifically about Muslims on social media.
The White House has massively chopped down on refugee programs improved by the Obama administration, notably Trump’s decision of slashing down the number of immigrants in the U.S. from 110,000 to 45,000. Furthermore, the government’s new budget proposed to cutting down of the funding for U.S. Agency for International Development by 25 percent — an agency that promotes better living conditions preventing citizens from fleeing their countries.
Although there is slim chance this proposal will pass through Congress, it still gives insight into the Trump administration’s mindset of pushing back refugee, and largely human, rights.
According to State Secretary Rex Tillerson, “This budget focuses resources on national security at home and abroad, on economic development that contributes to the growth of our economy. It requests the resources necessary to advance peace and security, and respond to global crises, while prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.”
However, appointees like Veprek pose massive questions about the White House’s efforts and commitment in development and assistance of refugees.