President Donald Trump plans to reduce the annual refugee cap to 18,000 in the coming fiscal year, the State Department said Thursday. The lower ceiling follows a trend under President Trump of cutting refugee levels every year. The administration was rumored to be considering dropping the cap down to zero but ultimately opted to keep the program running amid pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
The cut to refugee levels comes after the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to proceed with disallowing migrants to claim asylum after traveling through another country en route to the U.S.-Mexico border. The asylum restrictions are expected to deter tens of thousands of economic migrants traveling north from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, who had hoped to use the asylum process to gain entry into the United States.
The Trump Administration has argued that asylum seekers (who apply from inside the U.S. or at the border) and refugees (who apply from abroad) both draw on the same pool of federal resources. The administration has used this rationale to justify cutting refugee admissions in recent years as resources have become scant after being redirected to processing asylum requests, and Congress has failed to close asylum loopholes and neglected calls to increase funding to organizations that help displaced persons abroad, which would provide support to many more people in actual need.
In a written statement, the U.S. Department of State explained:
The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large number of refugees. Prioritizing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in our country is simply a matter of fairness and common sense.
The department noted that the Trump administration intends to consult with Congress before issuing an official cap determination.
The coming year’s 18,000-person cap will be the lowest since the refugee resettlement program began in 1980, a major shift from the 110,000 refugee admissions former President Obama proposed for fiscal year 2017. President Trump scrapped Obama’s refugee goal after taking office in 2017 and set the cap at 50,000. He lowered it to 45,000 in fiscal 2018 and then to 30,000 in fiscal 2019.
The president also issued an executive order that establishes a process for determining whether a State and locality consent to resettlement before any refugees are resettled. If a state or locality objects, then refugees cannot be resettled unless the Secretary of State concludes that failing to resettle "would be inconsistent with the policies and strategies established under 8 U.S.C. 1522(a)(2)(B) and (C) or other applicable law."
Updated: Fri, Oct 11th 2019 @ 9:50am EDT