Trump Sets Annual Refugee Limit at 45,000, the Lowest in Decades

  • New limit reflects focus on safety and security, officials say
  • Refugee aid group calls decision ‘callous and tragic’

The U.S. will accept no more than 45,000 refugees in the year starting Oct. 1, according to Trump administration officials, reducing the limit by more than half from the previous year and setting a target that’s the lowest since current refugee legislation was passed in 1980.

President Donald Trump’s decision, which was being sent to Congress on Wednesday, is in line with his broader push to limit migrant inflows to the U.S. It comes days after he issued his latest version of a travel ban, restricting or suspending travel to the U.S. from eight countries, including Syria, Somalia and Iran, which have been the source of many refugees to the U.S. in recent years.

Read More: Travel Ban 3.0 Seen as ‘Bulletproof’ If Not for Trump Remarks

The limit -- down from 110,000 for the current fiscal year --- reflects shifting priorities, with an emphasis on the “safety and security of the American people” and a realistic assessment of the effects of more rigorous vetting, a process that currently takes as long as two years, two administration officials told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Some administration officials had pushed for even tighter limits. Stephen Miller, a senior White House policy adviser, and Chief of Staff John Kelly had pressed for a ceiling as low as 15,000 refugees, the New York Times reported this week. The lowest previous ceiling was 1986, when President Ronald Reagan set it at 67,000 refugees, and the fewest refugees actually admitted since 1980 was the 27,000 in 2002, a year after the Sept. 11 attacks.

‘Cruel and False’

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the largest agencies that resettles refugees in the U.S., called the new limit “a callous and tragic decision.”

“We are not afraid of our new neighbors and are not fooled by cruel and false claims that refugees are a threat to our safety,” Linda Hartke, the group’s president and chief executive officer, said in an emailed statement. “The American legacy of welcoming refugees has made us stronger and better, and the government’s own research proves that refugees bring economic benefit to our country through their hard work.”

In previewing the decision, the administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement, said the U.S. remains the world’s leading recipient of refugees who will be resettled permanently, citing as an example that Canada, No. 2 on the list, has a target of 25,000 in the current year. But with a population 10 times the size of Canada’s, the U.S. admits far fewer refugees on a per-capita basis.

One of the U.S. officials said the 45,000 target will include about 1,200 asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island that President Barack Obama had promised to accept under a deal with Australia. Trump has made clear he was honoring that accord only grudgingly.

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