White House Weighs Lowering Refugee Quota to Below 50,000
“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering reducing the number of refugees admitted to the country over the next year to below 50,000, according to current and former government officials familiar with the discussions, the lowest number since at least 1980.
“President Trump promised during his 2016 campaign to deny admittance to refugees who posed a terrorist threat. In his first days in office he took steps to radically reduce the program that resettles refugees in American cities and towns, capping the number admitted at 50,000 as part of his executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. That was less than half the 110,000 refugees President Barack Obama said should be admitted in 2016.
“But in recent weeks, as the deadline approached for Mr. Trump to issue the annual determination for refugee admissions required by the Refugee Act of 1980, some inside the White House — led by Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser for policy — have pressed to set the ceiling even lower.
“The issue has created an intense debate within the administration, with Mr. Miller and some officials at the Department of Homeland Security citing security concerns and limited resources as grounds for deeply cutting the number of admissions, and officials at the National Security Council, the State Department and the Department of Defense opposing a precipitous drop.
“No final decision has been made, according to the officials, but as the issue is being debated, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the administration to bar almost any refugees from entering the country while it considers challenges to the travel ban order. The court will hear arguments in the case next month.
A Historically Low Cap on Refugees May Fall Further
- “President Trump is considering lowering the cap on refugees admitted to the United States to less than 50,000 for the 2018 fiscal year, down from the 110,000 cap set by President Barack Obama before he left office. Mr. Trump had previously ordered that the country admit no more than 50,000 refugees in 2017.
“Spokesmen at the White House and the departments of Homeland Security and State declined to discuss an annual figure, noting that it had not yet been finalized. By law, the president must consult with Congress and make a decision by the start of each fiscal year, Oct. 1, on the refugee ceiling.
“Mr. Miller, the principal architect of Mr. Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, has been the most vocal proponent at the White House for reducing the number of admissions far below the 50,000 stipulated in the travel ban, at one point advocating a level as low as 15,000, the officials said. An aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in the Senate, he has inserted himself in a policy process that is typically led by the State Department and coordinated by the National Security Council.
“This year, the Department of Homeland Security is dominating the discussions, and the Domestic Policy Council, which reports to Mr. Miller, has coordinated the process. In a meeting on the topic at the White House on Tuesday, Homeland Security officials recommended a limit of 40,000, according to officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.
“Should Mr. Trump move ahead with scaling back refugee resettlement, it would be the second time in as many weeks that he has used executive authority to reduce the influx of immigrants. Last week, he moved to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that grants protection from deportation to undocumented people brought to the United States as children, in six months. But he called on Congress to enact a law to address those immigrants’ status.
“One senior administration official involved in the internal debate over refugees described the move to curtail admissions as part of a broader rethinking of how the United States deals with migrants, based on the idea that it is more effective and affordable to help displaced people outside the nation’s borders than within them, given the backlog of asylum seekers and other immigrants already in the country hoping to stay.
“Still, the prospect of capping refugee admissions below 50,000 has alarmed people both inside and outside the administration, given the refugee crisis unfolding around the world and the United States’ history of taking a leadership position in accepting people fleeing violence and persecution.”
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