The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will reduce the number of refugees resettled in the United States in the 2018 fiscal year to 45,000.
That cap is the lowest ceiling on refugee admissions since the 1980 creation of the Refugee Act, which gave the president the power to determine refugee admission levels.
The quota will include regional caps of 19,000 for Africa, 17,500 for the Near East and South Asia, 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean, the State Department said in a briefing to Congress, according to the Associated Press.
Trump administration officials told reporters on Wednesday that the new cap will enhance national security and ensure the refugees who are admitted are screened properly. The officials added that new screening and resettlement requirements for refugees will soon be announced.
Trump, within his first days in office, had already dramatically reduced the refugee cap to 50,000 from the 110,000 President Barack Obama sought to admit for fiscal year 2017. The New York Times had first reported last week that Trump was mulling whether to reduce the cap for fiscal year 2018 to a figure below 50,000.
Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, one of the staunchest immigration hardliners remaining in the White House, had reportedly pushed for a cap as low as 15,000, according to the Times. Homeland Security officials, meanwhile, recommended at a recent meeting that the limit be lowered to 40,000.
Axios reported on Monday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had signed off on a memo recommending that admissions be capped at 45,000.
Refugee resettlement organizations in the US have expressed dismay at the news. They had been pushing the Trump administration to set next year’s refugee cap at at least 75,000, and said a further reduction in admission levels would drain their resources and force the shuttering of many resettlement programs.
“Reports of a ceiling as low as 45,000 are deeply troubling at a time of global crisis,” Hans Van de Weerd of the International Rescue Committee said in a statement on Tuesday, following media reports that the 45,000-refugee cap would soon be announced.
“The decision to arbitrarily slash refugees admitted would represent a sad day for America, and a bad day for the world’s refugees. Setting a record-low cap on refugee resettlement, the White House is showing a stunning cruelty toward those fleeing our common enemies – enemies who intend to paint the US as indifferent to refugees’ suffering.”