President Donald Trump is debating whether to reduce the amount of refugees resettled in the United States in the next fiscal year to a figure below 50,000, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing officials familiar with the discussions.
Administration officials said no final decision has been made, but if Trump does drop the cap below 50,000, it would be the lowest amount of refugees admitted to the country since the 1980 creation of the Refugee Act, which gave the president the power to determine refugee admission levels.
Trump, within his first days in office, has already dramatically reduced the refugee cap to 50,000 from the 110,000 President Barack Obama sought to admit for fiscal year 2017.
Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, one of the staunchest immigration hardliners remaining in the White House, pushed for a cap as low as 15,000, according to the Times. Homeland Security officials, meanwhile, recommended at a Tuesday meeting that the limit be lowered to 40,000.
The news comes amid ongoing litigation over Trump’s travel ban, which in part targeted refugees by attempting to halt all refugee resettlement for 120 days, purportedly to allow the administration time to review its vetting and admissions procedures.
The ban has undergone back-and-forth court rulings in recent months, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the ban’s constitutionality in October. On Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court gave the Trump administration a partial victory when it lifted a lower court’s injunction that blocked the travel ban from being enforced on refugees with ties to US resettlement agencies.
The lower court ruling would have allowed the admission of up to 24,000 additional refugees.
In the meantime, refugee resettlement organisations in the US have been pushing the Trump administration to set next year’s refugee cap at at least 75,000, and have said that a further reduction in admission levels would drain their resources and force the shuttering of many resettlement programs.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say the very existence of refugee resettlement as a core aspect of the American story, and America’s role as a global leader in this area, is at stake,” David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, told the Times.
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