Refugees from three countries this week gathered in the childhood home of US president Donald Trump and nibbled on Dunkin’ Donuts. It was a clever bit of political theatre in Queens, New York, as world leaders convened 12 miles away at the United Nations to discuss, among other things, refugee crises around the globe.
Anti-poverty organization OxFam was behind the rental, which was booked through Airbnb and timed to coincide with this week’s meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
“What better place to show world leaders the value of a safe, welcoming home for those fleeing unthinkable situations than the childhood home of the US president,” the organization says on its website.
Of course, choosing Trump’s childhood home was a very deliberate move by OxFam. During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump was outspoken about keeping Muslim refugees out of the US, even as Syria faced one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent years. And the president has stuck to his position since entering office, saying allowing more refugees into the US would increase the risk of terrorism.
On Monday, The New York Times (paywall) discovered the White House rejected a US Department of Health and Human Services study that found refugees brought in about $63 billion in additional government revenue over the past 10 years. Other world leaders don’t expect any immediate change in Trump’s stance, as spotlighted today (Sept. 19) in UN secretary general António Guterres’ first General Assembly speech. Also in New York for the UNGA, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina told Reuters she did not expect Trump to offer help as thousands of Rohingya Muslims flood across the border from Myanmar.
So as Trump mingles with other world leaders, refugees from Syria, Somalia, and Vietnam will be gathered in his childhood home to make a political statement.
The Trump administration is expected to announce how many refugees the US will resettle in 2018. Some anticipate the number will be capped at about 50,000 people—less than half the number admitted under former president Barack Obama in 2016.