That cap would impose the toughest limit in decades despite what humanitarian groups have called a global refugee crisis, with the United Nations reporting that 65.6 million people – the most on record – were displaced in 2016. By contrast, former president Barack Obama had moved to allow 110,000 refugees into the country in 2017.
Mr Trump has made limiting immigration, both legal and illegal, a centrepiece of his policy agenda. He has sought to augment deportations of immigrants in the country illegally and to block more illegal entries by erecting a border wall between the US and Mexico.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants rose this year compared to 2016 and border apprehensions surged by 60 per cent this summer, according to federal data, though Mr Trump has yet to convince Congress to fund his wall.
He has also taken aim at legal migration, embracing a bill that would have slashed admittances and enacting a ban on travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Such measures have been popular with Trump supporters who gravitated toward his nativist message. Republican lawmakers praised Mr Trump’s refugee limit, saying it would help safeguard national security.
“The Trump Administration’s refugee ceiling for the coming year maintains our nation’s generosity toward those in need, and importantly, ensures limited resources are used wisely and our citizens are protected in light of ongoing terrorist threats,” Representative Bob Goodlatte – a Virginia Republican who heads the committee that oversees immigration – said in a statement, arguing that the new level would help reduce a backlog caused by a flood of asylum-seekers.
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But Democrats and humanitarian groups reacted with dismay to Mr Trump’s announcement, saying it forfeited America’s moral authority and ceded the country’s role as a shelter for the persecuted.
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Senator Dianne Feinstein of California released a statement calling the proposed cap “completely unacceptable”, saying America was “not doing its part to respond to this global crisis”. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois called the move “unconscionable”.