(CNSNews.com) – The Trump administration is proposing to resettle 18,000 refugees in the United States in the new fiscal year, reducing last year’s record-low refugee admission ceiling by a further 40 percent.
“The United States anticipates receiving more than 368,000 new refugees and asylum claims in FY 2020,” the State Department said in a statement Thursday. “ Of them, 18,000 would be refugees we propose to resettle under the new refugee ceiling; we also anticipate processing more than 350,000 individuals in new asylum cases.”
The final ceiling will be decided after consultation with Congress – as required by the Immigration and Nationality Act – but the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, in a report on Congress, are proposing an 18,000 limit.
That’s by far the lowest since the modern U.S. refugee resettlement program began in 1980, when the Refugee Act was enacted.
In anticipation of the criticism that was swift to follow Thursday’s announcement, the State Department argued that the refugee admission ceiling should not be viewed in isolation, arguing that the U.S. also “hosts hundreds of thousands of people who have temporary and permanent protection under special immigration categories such as victims of trafficking, humanitarian parole, temporary protected status, and special immigrant juvenile status.”
“These programs, in addition to our refugee and asylum programs, help uphold America’s legacy of caring for the most vulnerable,” it said. “It is misguided to see our refugee admissions program as the singular measure of America’s humanitarian-based immigration efforts.”
The department also said it would be irresponsible to seek large numbers of refugees abroad at a time “when the humanitarian and security crisis along the southern border already imposes an extraordinary burden on the U.S. immigration system.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, deplored the record low proposed cap.
“Before the Trump administration, we admitted an average of 95,000 refugees each year,” she said. “Now his administration wants to admit less than one-fifth of that amount – only 18,000 people. Last year it was Canada and not the United States that accepted the most refugees.”
“Refugees fleeing violence and persecution come to the United States in search of a better life,” Feinstein said.
“They should be welcomed with compassion and understanding, not turned away or have their children taken away from them at the border. We’re better than that. Sadly, the administration’s low refugee number says otherwise.”
The State Department said, without providing specific numbers, that the proposal for FY 2019 includes “specific allocations for people persecuted on account of their religious beliefs, Iraqis whose assistance to the United States has put them in danger, and legitimate refugees from Northern Triangle countries.”
President Trump issued an executive order on Thursday designed to ensure that refugees are resettled in communities where state and local governments are best-positioned to receive them – in the words of a White House statement, “in an environment in which they will have the greatest opportunities to thrive, prosper, and contribute to their new American community.”
The White House said this means refugees will be placed where state and local governments consent to receive them, and that those without “the resources or capacity for refugee resettlement do not face this burden.”
In FY 2019, the states accounting for the largest number of refugee admissions are Texas, with 2,458 refugees, Washington 1,942, New York 1,844, California 1,833, Ohio 1,426, North Carolina 1,256, and Arizona, with 1,221 refugees.
‘Decisions based on reality, not wishes’
Since 1980, annual refugee admission ceilings set by administrations have ranged from a high of 231,700 in 1980 to a low of 30,000 in fiscal year 2019.
Actual resettlement figures have invariably been lower than the annual caps: The largest intake of refugees was 207,116, also in 1980, and the smallest was 21,058, if FY 2018.
(The biggest gap between a year’s ceiling and the ultimate number of admissions was in FY 2002, the financial year that began just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Although the ceiling for that year was 70,000, only 27,131 refugees were resettled.)
With four days go to until FY 2019 ends, a total of 29,972 refugees have been resettled as of early Friday – just 28 short of the annual ceiling – according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.
“At the core of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy is a commitment to make decisions based on reality, not wishes, and to drive optimal outcomes based on concrete facts,” the State Department said.
“Given the dire situation of the 71 million people displaced around the world, the mission of American diplomacy is more important than ever. Diplomatic tools – for example, foreign assistance, economic and political engagement, and alliance-building are essential to resolve the crisis points that drive displacement in the first place.”
“Attacking problems at the source makes it possible to help many more vulnerable people, and to do so much more rapidly, than could be done through resettlement or asylum in the United States.”
The department added that the administration has placed a new focus on helping refugees where they are concentrated, in countries like Turkey, Bangladesh and Colombia.
Earlier it was reported that some government agencies were pressing for zero refugee admissions for FY 2020. The reported prompted concern some several quarters, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent statutory body that advises the executive and legislative branches.
USCIRF Chairman Tony Perkins said earlier this month the commission was “alarmed by reports that the administration is preparing to significantly reduce, or even zero out, the number of refugees to be resettled to the United States in FY 2020.”
“We strongly urge the administration to extend its admirable commitment to advancing religious freedom to its refugee resettlement policy,” said Perkins, who is president of the conservative Family Research Council.