The Trump administration has confirmed that the U.S. plans to set a limit of 45,000 refugees for the next fiscal year -– a drop from Trump’s 50,000 cap last year and the 110,000 that Obama pledged the U.S. would take in during his final months in office.
This is the lowest cap since the refugee admissions program began in 1975, although in some past years actual admissions were lower, sparking outrage from refugee resettlement groups and top Democrats.
The administration plans to admit 19,000 refugees from Africa; 5,000 from East Asia; 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia; 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean; and 17,500 from Near East and South Asia, according to an administration plan sent to Congress.
U.S. officials defended the change as necessary, citing national security and a backlog of asylum seekers that must take priority for the Department of Homeland Security.
“We want to make sure that this is a secure process and that no one is allowed through that might endanger the security of America,” one official told reporters, pointing to new vetting procedures the administration has already implemented as well as future ones that are being considered under an ongoing 120-day review that ends Oct. 24.
A spokesperson for the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the “growing” domestic asylum backlog is expected to reach 300,000 cases by the year’s end, which means DHS will divert resources from the refugee admissions program to deal with that. Asylum seekers come to the U.S. and file for asylum from persecution overseas, as opposed to refugees also fleeing persecution who undergo an extensive screening process abroad and are then resettled in the U.S.
The new vetting procedures could mean longer processing times for refugees, and between this and the asylum-seeker backlog, the administration will not be able to process as many people, according to the officials. After the 120-day review of the vetting procedures, the administration will announce what changes will be implemented, but some additional procedures have been added already.
But officials did not explain why they needed to lower the cap if the screening procedures are already being strengthened and if the new procedures won’t necessarily take longer. They also said they don’t know yet whether refugees from the countries on Trump’s latest travel ban will be allowed to apply –- something to be determined by the 120-day review.
But a U.S. official…