The Supreme Court Just Blocked Vetted Refugees from Starting a New Life in the United States

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that President Trump’s “travel ban” can still go into effect for foreigners who lack a “bona fide relationship” with someone in the United States. Unless they can satisfy that requirement, this also includes a total ban on all refugees from everywhere in the world for 120 days.

According to one the largest US-based non-profit organizations that helps refugees resettle into the USA, this means that refugees who underwent years-long security screenings and have been previously cleared for entry to the United States will now be barred. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) says the order “immediately impacts already vetted refugees scheduled to come to the United States. ”

“Too much time already has been spent litigating this misguided order,” David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC said in a statement. “The approach of the Administration is bad policy. That is not changed by the legal arguments. The Court’s decision threatens damage to vulnerable people waiting to come to the US: people with urgent medical conditions blocked, innocent people left adrift, all of whom have been extensively vetted. We urge the Administration to begin its long-delayed review of the vetting process and restart a program which changes lives for the better,” said Miliband.

Before this decision, the United States was a global leader in refugee resettlement.


The vast majority of refugees live just across the border from the home country from which they fled. Most of these refugees will either return home when the situation allows it, or will be absorbed into their host country. There are a small minority of people for whom these two options are not possible for one reason or another — typically because they have some sort of exceptional hardship.  This cohort is considered eligible for third country resettlement.  Last year, of 16 million refugees in the world, the UN Refugee Agency recommended just 162,500 people for third country resettlement.

The USA has historically been the most welcoming of resettlement countries, with the cap set this year to 120,000 refugees. The Trump administration will lower that to about 50,000 people.

After an extensive security screening process, a refugee is permitted entry to the United States. They are paired with a non profit organization like the IRC that receives US government grants to facilitate refugee resettlement and integration into their new homes.

But Now, there is a 120 Ban on All Refugees

When President Trump first issues his executive order banning all refugee resettlement from everywhere in the world for 120 days, the UN Refugee Agency estimated that some 20,000 people would be immediately affected by the ban. These are people who were previously cleared to arrive in the USA, but now must wait four months. The somewhat ambiguous language in the Supreme Court ruling does permit people who may have relatives in the US to still come to the United States. According to a spokesperson for the IRC that will cover some refugees, but certainly not all.

It is now clear, though, that life just became more difficult for some of the most vulnerable people in the planet. The 120 day ban on all refugees from everywhere still stands, more or less.