Last week, high-level Trump administration security officials discussed a near-shutdown of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, Politico reported this week. Officials discussed setting the annual cap of refugees resettled into the U.S. anywhere from zero to 10,000. According to the UNHCR, 70.8 million people around the world (including 25.9 million refugees) have been forced from their home — the highest number of displaced people ever recorded.
If the administration does indeed set the Presidential Determination close to zero come September, this would follow the Trump administration’s trend of increasingly limiting opportunities for U.S. entry to those fleeing violence and persecution — both as asylum seekers and as refugees. In President Barack Obama’s final year in office, he set the cap to 110,000, the highest ceiling since 1995. President Donald Trump set the fiscal year 2019 Presidential Determination at 30,000.
The top countries refugees are fleeing from include (in descending order) Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
World Relief released an official statement today condemning the reported plan. The organization has requested that the Trump administration set the ceiling to 95,000 refugees, in line with historical Presidential Determination averages of 75,000 to 95,000 per year:
“The president has promised again and again to protect persecuted Christians, and refugee resettlement is an essential tool to achieve that end,” said World Relief CEO Tim Breene, noting that the number of persecuted Christians being resettled to the U.S. has declined dramatically in recent years, and now could be reduced to zero. “Americans of faith should recognize and respond to this assault on our call to protect the ‘least of these’ – especially as a country where most citizens profess to be Christians. The United States used to be a leader in refugee resettlement but has fallen behind Canada, for example, which has a ninth of our population, in resettling refugees.”
Hans Van de Weerd, Vice President, Resettlement, Asylum and Integration at the International Rescue Committee, echoed World Relief’s condemnation, saying:
“An admissions goal of zero would be another low in a global race to the bottom led by an Administration that has introduced travel bans, illegal asylum procedures, family separations, child detention, and is now proposing to abandon a rich American tradition of providing safety and opportunity.”
Given that the refugee resettlement process takes years, experts worry that a Presidential Determination near zero could impact the flow of resettlement for years to come and leave applicants in limbo. According to Politico, 29,000 refugees have already completed USCIS interviews, a key step in the rigorous resettlement process.