The White House plans to cap refugee admissions at 45,000 for Fiscal Year 2018, the administration told lawmakers Wednesday, confirming speculation that President Donald Trump would sharply reduce the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. next year.
The proposed ceiling is the lowest since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, which gives presidents wide latitude to determine how many refugees are settled in the U.S. each year.
The final number will be officially settled after the White House consults with Congressional leaders. A decision is due by Saturday, the last day of the current fiscal year.
Of the 45,000 total refugees, the vast majority will be drawn from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, senior administration officials said on background. About 19,000 will be admitted from Africa, and another 17,000 will come from what the State Department calls “Near East and South Asia,” a broad swath of conflict-plagued territory stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan.
Another 5,000 refugees will be accepted from East Asian countries, 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The historically low ceiling reflects the Trump administration’s focus on implementing tougher security screening of refugees and devoting resources to more than 100,000 asylum applicants already present in the country, administration officials said. Trump had previously claimed the U.S. refugee program did not adequately screen applicants, and he instituted a 120-day moratorium on all refugee admissions pending a review of the vetting process.
The security review is scheduled to end Oct. 4, at which point admission of refugees from most countries will resume under tougher security protocols. Administration officials are still determining which countries under the revised travel ban will face restrictions on refugee admissions.
The White House has pushed back against criticism from human rights groups that a low refugee cap will harm U.S. standing in the world. The 45,000 figure represents a reasonable compromise between U.S. security and maintaining humanitarian assistance overseas, administration officials said Wednesday. The State Department will focus on resettling refugees in countries close to their nations of origin while offering a “robust program for the small percentage of people that need to be moved” to the U.S., an administration official said.
Even at 45,000 annual admissions, the U.S. would likely admit more refugees than any other country. Second-ranked Canada and third-ranked Australia are expected to accept 25,000 and 18,000 refugees next year, respectively, according to administration officials.
On a per capita basis, however, U.S. refugee admissions would be much lower than both of those countries.
The U.S. has accepted about 54,000 refugees this fiscal year, according to administration officials.
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