News & Politics

Backlog of Asylum Cases Will Force Administration to Cut Back Number of Refugees

Immigrants from Central America reach the border in Tijuana, Mexico, to seek asylum in the United States on April 29, 2018. (Kyodo via AP)

The Trump administration is planning on reducing the number of refugees the U.S. accepts in order to deal with the massive backlog of asylum cases currently in the system.

There are now 900,000 people waiting for a decision on their asylum claims and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) feels that reaching even the reduced goal of admitting 30,000 refugees this year is an impossibility.

The difference in how asylum cases and refugee cases are processed means the government has to reassign personnel to deal with the enormous backlog of asylum claims.

Fox News:

USCIS is in the process of reassigning workers who process refugee cases to handle asylum claims, which have put a strain on the system, the official said, stressing that the crisis at the southern border takes priority over processing refugee claims.

The New York Times reported that top officials will meet in the Situation Room on Tuesday to discuss new proposals to the refugee cap, which is set by the president. The Associated Press reported that some officials have argued for the cap to be set as low as 15,000, while the Times reported that others have argued the cap should be reduced all the way to zero.

It’s unclear what direction the White House will take in setting the new refugee policy, or if a new cap will be reconfigured to include both refugees and asylum seekers.

This is more than an administrative or personnel snafu. There are legal obstacles the Trump administration is trying to deal with.

In fiscal year 2018, the cap was 45,000 and 22,491 were admitted. That’s one-quarter of the number allowed to enter two years ago and the lowest since Congress passed a law in 1980 creating the modern resettlement system.

The reduced number of refugees being admitted is due to the more stringent protocols for citizens from 11 countries that the administration has said present the greatest security threat, and the State Department has acknowledged there are fewer refugee admissions due to the screening and vetting procedures.

Oh, we heartless Americans, right? Wrong.

Administration officials have said the U.S. remains at the forefront of helping those fleeing persecution, and they note that from the 2008 budget year to 2017, the U.S. gave lawful permanent resident status to 1.7 million people for humanitarian reasons.

No matter how controversial the “travel ban,” it appears to be doing what it was designed to do; prevent a terrorist attack on the U.S. from radical Islamic terrorists. Of course, the absence of an attack doesn’t prove that the administration was right about the travel ban. But you can never be wrong using common-sense precautions.

It will take years to reduce this backlog of asylum seekers. Forcing many of them to remain in Mexico or Guatemala will help with the humanitarian situation, but won’t speed up the process for others. Meanwhile, critics and political opponents continue to ignore the monumental difficulties in trying to deal intelligently with more than a million people who have simply shown up at our border and demanded succor.