The Trump administration on Thursday proposed allowing only 18,000 refugees to resettle in the United States in the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest number in the history of the modern refugee program, reports Trend referring to Reuters.
At the same time, President Donald Trump issued an executive order saying his administration would seek the approval of state and local governments to resettle refugees in their communities, in a shift for a federally directed program.
Trump has made cutting immigration a centerpiece of his presidency and one of his first acts after assuming office in January 2017 was to issue an order capping the maximum number of refugees that year at 50,000, less than half the number former President Barack Obama had set a few months earlier.
The cap was whittled down to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 for 2019, over the objections of senior officials in the Department of Defense, who view the program as crucial to rewarding and building allies in U.S. military campaigns oversees.
In its justification for cutting the 2020 cap almost in half, the administration said in a statement the focus had to be on processing in country asylum claims, most of which are filed by migrants from Central America crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large number of refugees,” the State Department said.
Refugee experts say the U.S. refugee resettlement program, designed to take in people fleeing violence and persecution all over the world, serves mostly a different population than the immigrants arriving at the southwest border.
Beneficiaries are meant to include persecuted religious minorities, people whose lives are in danger for assisting the U.S. military, orphaned children, and victims of female genital mutilation, the experts say.
Immigration groups anticipating the cut had already raised alarm over its impact.
"Additional cuts next fiscal year would devastate thousands already referred for resettlement, nearly 30,000 of whom have already completed [government] interviews,” Nazanin Ash, a vice president the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement earlier this month.
The IRC is a non-profit group that aids refugees.www.anews.az