The United States will no longer participate in the U.N.-organized Global Compact on Migration (GCM), the U.S. Mission to the U.N. informed the secretary-general on Sunday.
That decision was informed by concerns about threats to the United States's sovereignty, with administration officials citing the need for the country to define its own immigration policy independent of the mandates of the United Nations.
"America is proud of our immigrant heritage and our long-standing moral leadership in providing support to migrant and refugee populations across the globe. No country has done more than the United States, and our generosity will continue," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
"But our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country," Haley said.
The announcement reverses the Obama administration decision to sign on to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which aims at setting up the GCM by 2018.
The New York Declaration includes a number of commitments for signatories that create expanded expectations for immigrants. These include education for children with "a few months" of arrival, as well as working towards an end of detention for children to determine their immigration status.
The GCM would also try to "strengthen the global governance of migration," specifically by adding the International Organization for Migration to the U.N.'s purview.
All of this, Haley contended, is incompatible with preserving the United States's sovereignty, and its ability to set its own immigration policy.
"The global approach in the New York Declaration is simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty," Haley said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concurred with Haley's analysis in a separate statement, writing that the New York Declaration, "contains a number of policy goals that are inconsistent with U.S. law and policy."
"While we will continue to engage on a number of fronts at the United Nations, in this case, we simply cannot in good faith support a process that could undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders," Tillerson said.
"The United States supports international cooperation on migration issues, but it is the primary responsibility of sovereign states to help ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and legal," he said.
Miroslav Lajčák, the president of the U.N. General Assembly, expressed his regret at the U.S. departure in a statement of his own.
"The role of the United States in this process is critical as it has historically and generously welcomed people from all across the globe and remains home to the largest number of international migrants in the world. As such, it has the experience and expertise to help ensure that this process leads to a successful outcome," he said.
Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, disagreed, saying U.S. immigration policy should be determined by elected officials, not an unelected group of bureaucrats from the U.N.
"The idea that we had unelected officials negotiating some sort of global migration compact is problematic. With respect to refugees and the movement of peoples, the United States needs to play a strong role, we always have. We accept more refugees for permanent resettlement than any other country on the face of the earth," Arthur said.
"There's plainly a huge role for the United States to play, as relates to migration. But as relates to migration to the United States, the fact remains that that is an issue for Congress and for the American people to decide, not for unaccountable bureaucrats in Turtle Bay," he said.