The UN migration agency on Friday voted down Ken Isaacs, the Trump administration’s candidate to lead the International Organization for Migration, a US official told CNN, leaving it without an American at the helm for the first time since 1951.
He was eliminated from contention after the second round of voting, a UN source told CNN.
“This was a very competitive election with three highly qualified candidates,” a State Department official told CNN.
“We congratulate the winner and look forward to working with him/her. IOM is an important partner for the United States around the globe, and we are committed to working with IOM to address root causes of migration and to promote safe and legal migration,” the official said.
Isaacs, who works in relief efforts for the Christian nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse, was nominated in February to serve as director general of the 169-member group whose mission is to promote “humane and orderly migration” through assistance to both governments and migrants.
But the agency decided Friday that it will choose a non-American leader for the first time in decades – a move that comes as the Trump administration continues to reduce the number of refugees it accepts into the US every year and push a controversial immigration agenda.
Isaacs himself has also come under scrutiny after a report from CNN’s KFile earlier this year and one from The Washington Post in February revealing he shared anti-Muslim and anti-refugee views on social media.
KFile previously reviewed more than 140 previously unreported tweets from before Isaacs was nominated that provide a wider window into his views of refugees, Islam and climate change – issues that would have been central to the position with IOM.
In several of the unearthed tweets, Isaacs shared a post that called climate change a “hoax,” shared a story from the conspiracy-peddling website InfoWars about the “Clinton body count,” and wrote “#Islam is not peaceful.”
After the February Washington Post report, Isaacs apologized in a statement, saying he “deeply” regretted his comments and adding, “I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM.”
According to The Associated Press, he told reporters, “I have retweeted many things to stimulate conversation. But at the same time … have never shown discrimination against anybody, for anything.”
But like President Donald Trump, Isaacs has said he supports more restrictive measures on refugees and migrants, once writing on Twitter that Austria and Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees out.
“#immigration #wall #Austria #Switzerland consider#buildingawall in #Alps to control their borders from refugees,” the tweet said.
Trump’s road to the White House was paved in part with hardline promises such as building a “great, great wall” along the US-Mexico border and outright banning immigration from any nations “compromised by terrorism.”
As President, though, Trump also has tightened some rules governing legal immigration.
The Supreme Court this week upheld the President’s travel ban, which restricts entry of people from seven countries to varying degrees. The measure – the ban’s third iteration – does not explicitly limit refugee admittances, as did the first two.
Those restrictions, along with enhanced security screenings enacted in January for refugees from 11 countries deemed high-risk by the administration, have led this year to a slowdown in refugee arrivals and contributed to the historic lull in admissions, refugee advocates said.
The US is currently on pace this year to admit the fewest number of refugees since the Refugee Act of 1980, which created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program.
Since the start of the fiscal year, the United States has admitted just under 15,600 refugees, compared to over 46,400 during the same time period in the final year of the Obama administration, according to publicly available government data.
In September, the Trump administration announced it would cap refugee admissions for the upcoming fiscal year at 45,000, with regional caps of 19,000 for Africa, 17,500 for the Near East and South Asia (which includes most Middle Eastern countries), 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean.
CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, Andrew Kaczynski, Michelle Krupa and Bethlehem Feleke contributed to this report.