The Trump administration expects to notify Congress this week about plans to slash refugee admissions by more than half over the next fiscal year.
A consensus has emerged among leadership in the State and Homeland Security Departments that the U.S. should cap refugee intake at around 40,000, Axios reported Monday.
Before leaving office, former President Barack Obama set the admission ceiling at 110,000 for Fiscal Year 2017, which Trump then cut to 50,000 in a January executive order. Previous reports had indicated the administration would maintain that level, or possibly set an even lower number for FY2018.
The Refugee Act of 1980 gives presidents wide latitude to set limits on refugee admissions. Since the law was enacted, the annual quota for worldwide refugee resettlement int the U.S. has averaged 94,000, according to State Department figures. Until this year, the lowest ceiling had been 67,000 under former President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has approved a State Department memo recommending that Trump accept 45,000 refugees in FY2018, reports Axios, citing two sources “close to the process.” DHS officials are reportedly recommending a slightly lower number.
Refugee advocates argue that cutting refugee acceptance by such a steep number will hurt U.S. standing in the world and make it harder for the Trump administration to claim moral authority on human rights. The American Civil Liberties Union called the proposal to cap refugee admissions at 50,000 “rank xenophobia” and “contrary to sound foreign policy.”
The administration has dismissed those concerns, arguing that both the U.S. and refugees themselves would be better served by resettling in countries closer to their nations of origin. During his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, Trump said keeping refugees nearer to home could save money and make it easier for migrants to return after peace is restored.
“We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people and which enable their eventual return to their home countries to be part of the rebuilding process,” Trump said.
The administration has until Oct. 1 to inform lawmakers of its decision on the admissions cap. Tillerson and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke are expected to be on Capitol Hill Wednesday to consult with lawmakers before a decision is made, reports Axios.
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