WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will slash the refugee cap to a low that hasn’t been seen since enactment of the United States Refugee Act of 1980, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed today.
The administration previously lowered the number of refugees admitted from 110,000 when President Trump took office to 45,000, though the number admitted last fiscal year did not near that cap. That is being cut again to a 30,000 cap, Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.
Refugee resettlement does not include the number of people reaching America and applying for asylum. Pompeo said 280,000 asylum-seekers are anticipated in fiscal year 2019.
“This year’s proposed refugee ceiling must be considered in the context of the many other forms of protection and assistance offered by the United States,” Pompeo said. “Moreover, the refugee ceiling number should not be viewed in isolation from other expansive humanitarian programs. Some will characterize the refugee ceiling as the sole barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world. This would be wrong.”
“In consideration of both U.S. national security interest and the urgent need to restore integrity to our overwhelmed asylum system, the United States will focus on addressing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country,” he added. “…This year’s refugee ceiling also reflects our commitment, our commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed. We must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent the entry of those who might do harm to our country.”
Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, called the cap announced by Pompeo “appalling.”
“It continues this administration’s rapid flight from the proud U.S. tradition of providing resettlement to those fleeing persecution around the world,” Schwartz said in a statement. “It is unacceptable that the United States is asking governments like Turkey, Jordan, and Uganda, among many others, to provide safety for literally millions of refugees, while the administration, in turn, announces the lowest refugee ceiling in U.S. history.”
Pompeo said the U.S. is “maintaining our enduring humanitarian commitments by working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their home countries as possible, thereby increasing the number of displaced people who have received aid and protection.”
“The improved refugee policy of this administration serves the national interest of the United States and expands our ability to help those in need all around the world,” he added.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called it “truly repugnant to see the Trump administration double down on its efforts to reject our foundational values and humanitarian duty of providing those escaping persecution the opportunity to seek protection and safe haven.”
“Our refugee resettlement program plays a critical role not only in promoting stability around the world, but in elevating our moral leadership on the global stage. Yet today, the Trump administration announced its refugee policy will continue to do untold damage to our nation’s values and countless lives across the world,” he said.
“For decades, refugee resettlement was a point of pride for both Republican and Democratic alike. And as seasoned and qualified civil servants are pushed out by anti-immigration hardliners in the Trump administration, I am very concerned to see Secretary Pompeo was either not willing or unable to be a voice of reason in the room when President was told he should continue grinding the U.S refugee program to a halt.”