(CNSNews.com) – President Trump’s four-month ban on refugee admissions will only come into effect once the 50,000 ceiling for this fiscal year is reached – and that is still several days away, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday.
As the total number of refugees resettled in the U.S. since October 1 edges towards the ceiling set by the president in two executive orders early this year, there has been some confusion over when the ban would begin, with the State Department earlier suggesting July 6 would be the cut-off day.
Even once the ban is enforced, under the limits set by the Supreme Court last month any refugee applicant able to show a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the U.S. will not be automatically barred.
The 50,000 ceiling therefore will not be an absolute final limit on the number able to resettle in the U.S. by September 30.
Refugee resettlement agencies have indicated that the new cut-off date may be the middle of next week, but Nauert declined to specify a day.
“I’m not going to name a date, but I will tell you this,” she told a press briefing. “We have not reached that number of 50,000 refugees just yet. When we do reach that number of 50,000 refugees, whatever date that falls on, that will be the time.”
On the day of the Supreme Court decision, June 26, the number of refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 stood at 48,856.
According to State Department Refugee Processing Center data, as of Thursday night, the figure has climbed by another 937, to reach 49,793.
Of the 937 newcomers, the largest contingents are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (227 refugees), Somalia (160) and Ukraine (140).
The rest come from 23 other countries: Afghanistan (20), Belarus (2), Bhutan (19), Botswana (1), Burma (64), Burundi (14), Colombia (11), Cuba (3), El Salvador (25), Eritrea (9), Ethiopia (31), Iran (25), Iraq (70), Ivory Coast (2), Moldova (14), Nepal (1), Pakistan (3), South Sudan (9), Russia (4), Sudan (27), Syria (53) and Uganda (3).
Four of those countries of origin – Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Syria – are among the six terror-prone countries most of whose citizens are prohibited from entering the U.S. for 90 days under another portion of Trump’s revised executive order. The other two are Libya and Yemen.
Critics have slammed Trump for singling out the six “Muslim-majority” countries (there were seven listed in the first executive order, but Iraq was removed in the revised one), and in some cases have questioned why countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were not included.
The administration disputes that the decision was arbitrary.
“Each of these countries is a state sponsor of terrorism, has been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contains active conflict zones,” the order says.
It also points out that the listed countries had been “designated by Congress and the Obama administration as posing national security risks with respect to visa-free travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.”
President Obama in late 2015 signed legislation requiring additional security for arrivals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan and any other country designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a source of legitimate terrorism concerns.
Obama’s DHS subsequently added Somalia, Yemen and Libya to the list of “countries of [terrorist] concern.”
The provision of the executive order targeting citizens of the six countries is also affected by the Supreme Court decision, which exempts from that ban those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
Trump’s decision to set a 50,000 limit on refugee admissions in FY 2017 contrasted to the Obama’s administration’s announcement last fall that the U.S. should aim to resettle 110,000 during the fiscal year.
Trump stated in his executive order that allowing more than 50,000 during the year “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
During the Obama years refugee admissions ranged from a low of 56,424 in FY 2011 to a high of 84,994 in FY 2016. The average over the FY 2010-2016 period was 68,973 a year.