President Donald Trump is slashing the refugee admissions quota to 45,000 for the 2018 fiscal year, the latest in a series of moves reducing the number of refugees who can seek safety in the United States.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed Congress on the presidential determination on Wednesday, a process that’s required by law. Senior administration officials told reporters that the Department of Homeland Security is simultaneously working to enhance the vetting and screening procedures used in the refugee resettlement process, as prescribed by Trump in his various travel bans.
The new cap will go into effect on Oct. 1 and the new vetting measures are expected to be rolled out before Oct. 18, the day the 120-day refugee ban is set to expire.
The administration placed caps on geographical areas, limiting the number of refugees who could be resettled from Africa to 19,000, East Africa to 5,000, Europe and Central Asia to 2,000 and Latin America plus the Caribbean to 1,500 and the Near East and South Asia to 17,000. The move comes as more than 65 million people are displaced worldwide, which the U.N.’s refugee agency calls “unprecedented.”
Administration officials said they plan to process as many refugees as they can under the ceiling, although they did note that in years past the quota hasn’t always been met.
The final number was determined following disagreements between different cabinet members and branches of government, several news outlets reported. The State Department formally recommended the administration stick with the 50,000 number, Trump administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press on Sept. 21. Officials shied away from aiming any higher because they “felt that 50,000 was the highest number that would be palatable to him.”
Yet the Department of Homeland Security requested a 40,000 quota. The agency is already facing a backlog of asylum requests, Politico reported, and would therefore have a hard time handling 50,000 people. Senior officials noted on the call Wednesday that some of the refugee resettlement program’s resources need to be devoted to this backlog going forward.
A group of top administration members led by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser, allegedly wanted to see a quota no higher than 15,000, according to The New York Times.