Only 30,000 refugees will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. in the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced. This is an all-time low.
In the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the administration set a 45,000-person cap, and has admitted only 20,918. In most years since Congress created an official program in 1980, the number of resettled refugees is close to the cap.
Under the outgoing Obama administration, the previous cap was 110,000, which President Donald Trump reduced to 50,000 and then 45,000. The yearly average since a limit was set in 1980 is 95,000. Following Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush set the cap to 70,000, only slightly below the previous administration’s, following a brief halt following the terrorist attacks against the U.S.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that in 2017, 68.5 million people worldwide had been forced from their homes, with 28.5 million displaced from their home countries. Over 16 million people were added to the total in 2017. Syria has 6.3 million refugees on its own. The U.S. admitted 60 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year.
The International Rescue Committee said in a statement, the U.S. is “not only abdicating humanitarian leadership and responsibility-sharing in response to the worst global displacement and refugee crisis since World War II, but compromising critical strategic interests and reneging on commitments to allies and vulnerable populations.”
Amnesty International said in a statement that the new cap “abandon[ed] this country’s promise to refugees” and that “there is absolutely no excuse for not accepting more refugees in the coming year.”
Pompeo also said the administration plans to process 280,000 asylum seekers this year, but there is no predetermined number of how many will be determined to have a valid claim to remain. Over 700,000 asylum cases were pending this summer.
The administration has engaged in several policies attempting to deflect and deter asylum seekers, including its much-criticized family separation policy that is in abeyance under court order.
Many asylum seekers told reporters as well as that they were turned away at entry, and told to return a different day or time, in seeming contravention of international conventions on obtaining sanctuary. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also changed U.S. policy, eliminating asylum for those suffering gang brutality or domestic violence in their home countries. The ACLU has sued the administration over this policy.
The tightened cap on refugees represents a policy success by White House advisor Stephen Miller, and outspoken opponent of immigration policies of previous administrations, Democratic and Republican. Reports in several outlets indicate Miller urged a cap of 15,000 or 25,000 for the previous year.