Donald Trump caps refugee admissions in 2018 to historic low

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Figure of 45,000 is lowest requested by a president in over three decades and less than half the 110,000 cap issued by Obama in 2016

Donald Trump intends to cap Americas annual refugee admissions at a historic low , marking the administrations latest crackdown on immigrants from some of the worlds most vulnerable groups.

A US state department report seen by the Guardian shows that the administration has briefed Congress it will admit just 45,000 refugees in 2018, the lowest number requested by any president in over three decades and less than half the 110,000 cap issued in the last year of the Obama administration.

Oliver Laughland (@oliverlaughland)

Here’s a page from the State Dept report showing Trump will slash annuals refugee admissions to 45,000. The lowest any president has gone:

September 27, 2017

The report references the presidents travel ban that was issued in March that called for more stringent vetting of refugees, who already face strict security checks which can see processing take on average between 18-24 months.

While maintaining the United States leadership role in humanitarian protection, an integral part of this mission is to ensure that refugee resettlement opportunities go only to those who are eligible for such protection and who do not present a risk to the safety and security of our country, the report states.

The announcement comes just days after the president issued a series of indefinite travel restrictions for eight countries, the latest iteration of Trumps travel ban, which critics argue deliberately targets Muslim travellers.

Since 1980 the White House has placed an annual ceiling on the number of refugees allowed into the US. The previous low, issued by Ronald Reagan in 1986, was 67,000 admissions.

Migrant advocacy groups, many of whom assist in resettling refugees, condemned the move.

Resettlement is only an option in the most urgent refugee cases, said Betsy Fisher, policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project. Its hard to comprehend why the administration would move to limit resettlement, when the need is greater than ever. We are abandoning desperate people in life-or-death situations, including children with medical emergencies, US wartime allies, and survivors of torture.

The move was also met with bipartisan criticism in Congress. Republican senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Dianne Feinstein said in a rare joint statement they were incredibly frustrated to have been told at the eleventh-hour of the administrations decision.

Federal law requires a cabinet official consult with Congress before a ceiling is decided. But a meeting between lawmakers and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was only scheduled on Wednesday, just days before the start of the 2018 fiscal year in October when the cap will come into force.

Donald Trump in Indianapolis. The refugee decision has been criticized as an affront to the United States legacy as a protector of oppressed people. Photograph: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

We are incredibly frustrated that the annual consultation for refugee admissions, which is required by law, was finalized just one day in advance, the senators said.

House Democrats John Conyersand Zoe Lofgren described the move as an affront to the United States legacy as a protector of oppressed people.

The US refugee program was created in the aftermath of world war two. At that time, we rightly rejected antisemitic ideology and embraced our role as a beacon of hope and freedom for those in need.

They added: Since that time, US refugee protection has never been a partisan issue, nor a political one. Presidents from both parties have long recognized that the US refugee admissions program is essential to global stability and our reputation as a leader on the world stage.

The administrations move comes at a time when the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) reports 65.6 million forcibly displaced people around the world, a total that has almost doubled in two decades, fuelled by conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.

Trumps announcement followed a fiery internal debate among White House advisers and administration officials, according to unnamed officials speaking to the New York Times.

The presidents senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hardliner, had argued for the cap to be lowered even further, to 15,000, while officials in the state and defense departments had recommended a cap of at least 50,000, the Times reported.

Although the 45,000 ceiling marks a historic low the United States has, in recent history, resettled far fewer refugees. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks the Bush administration allowed just 27,131 refugees into the country in 2002 even though the ceiling was set at 70,000.

In January, Trump used the first iteration of his travel ban to lower the Obama administrations cap from 110,000 to 50,000, but was prevented from implementing this after a series of federal courts blocked the presidents order.

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