The Trump administration is proposing to accept a maximum of 18,000 refugees in the coming year, in what would be the lowest refugee ceiling in the country’s history, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.
If the government follows through, 2020 will be the third year of significant cuts to refugee resettlement under President Donald Trump.
For now, however, the latest figure remains a proposal.
The final decision, in the form of a “presidential determination,” will be made in the coming weeks after the required consultations with Congress, a senior administration official told reporters in a phone briefing organized by the White House on Thursday.
In fiscal 2018, the first full year of the Trump administration, the ceiling was set at 45,000, and 22,491 refugees were admitted.
In fiscal 2019, the ceiling was 30,000. With only three full days remaining in the fiscal year, the U.S. is close to the limit, with 29,972 refugees admitted, according to State Department data.
Prior to Trump’s election, the refugee ceiling average was 60,000 to 70,000 every year.
The proposed ceiling is one of three fundamental changes to the resettlement program announced Thursday.
Trump also issued an executive order that will require state and local governments to “consent” to accept refugees for resettlement.
While not a widespread issue, the order would allow states like Tennessee, which unsuccessfully sued the federal government to stop resettlement, to potentially prevent willing nonprofit organizations in the state from accepting refugees.
Additionally, the U.S. State Department is creating new categories — a procedure used rarely to meet specific needs, usually for a specific region.
For fiscal 2020, however, the total will include up to 5,000 refugees persecuted on account of their religious beliefs; 4,000 spots for Iraqis who assisted the U.S. during its operations in the country; and up to 1,500 of what the White House called “legitimate refugees” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Those specific allocations would allow for a maximum of 7,500 refugees who fall outside those categories.