As well as limiting the top-line number below any modern administration, Trump’s team has also taken a number of steps to further prevent refugees from immigrating: It is barring refugee claims from people who transit third countries on the way the US, it has tightened its definitions of prosecution to deny more refugee claims, and furloughed officers and closed offices that handle the arduous vetting process for potential refugees.

The hatred driving these choices is well-documented. Historically, however, the US has consistently used special refugee status as a soft-power tool. It attempted to rectify foreign policy blunders by encouraging refugees from southeast Asia after the Vietnam war or, with less alacrity, from Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of US occupations in those countries. It also welcomed Soviet Jews and Cubans as way to undermine socialist regimes without warfare.

At the moment, US lawmakers from both parties are backing a bill that would given Hong Kong residents priority status as refugees, but it’s not clear when it will come up for a vote or if president Trump would sign it. These programs haven’t always been popular, and sometimes outlast their effectiveness. The Cuban exception grew over the decades from an outlet for dissidents to an obstacle to normal relations. But they offer succor to prosecuted communities and allow for back-channel relations with the polity in question.

As important to Americans, new immigrants are a boon to the economy. Research consistently demonstrates migrants lead to more economic growth in the long term, particularly in the second generation. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was in the hot seat yesterday because his giant company may have accumulated too much power, but the origin story he highlighted—the son of a Cuban refugee turned world’s richest man—is a reminder of the disproportionate economic impact immigrants bring to the US.

Even Trump’s own economists admitted in their last budget request that the falling population growth in the US will lead to less growth in the decades ahead, straining the ability of the US economy to sustain its aging population. Letting in more people is already critical to future American prosperity; letting in more people fleeing abuse could help rebuild the America’s shattered global image.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously said that Hong Kong was handed over to China from Britain in 1998. It was 1997.

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