McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrant advocates reacted with shock on Thursday morning after the Trump administration said it wants to set the number of refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the United States at 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, which would be the lowest ever in the history of the 40-year-old program.
The Associated Press reported that just 34 minutes before last night’s midnight deadline, the administration sent a notice to Congress informing them of their intent to cut the maximum number of allotted refugees in the new fiscal year by 3,000 from the previous fiscal year. Annually, an average of 95,000 refugees from other countries has been allowed to resettle in the United States.
Congress must still approve the measure, but if it passes, this would be the lowest number of refugees that would be allowed into the United States since the the Refugee Act of 1980 was established.
The actual number of refugees who were allowed to resettle in the United States in fiscal 2020, which ended last night, was only 10,892 because all asylum-seekers and refugee applications were halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Trump administration had waited Thursday night until literally the last hour to file the notice, and this is the latest ever that Congress has been informed of the number of refugees it wants to allow in the upcoming year, which is required under the law.
“The State Department’s midnight recommendation that the U.S. resettle 15,000 refugees is too little, too late. Refugee resettlement remains on hold until the president consults with Congress and signs the Presidential Determination,” said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services. “This recommendation is the lowest in American history, which adds more vulnerability and fear for so many children and families who are fleeing persecution or violence overseas.”
Palusky said the delay in setting a number, and the historically low number, puts thousands of refugees worldwide “in precarious situations.”
On Wednesday, Bethany Services released a report urging the Trump administration to restore resettlement numbers to 95,000, saying the global pandemic has caused an undue burden on many refugees, and that CDC guidelines can allow for the safe resettlement of thousands more without the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“This new low from the president has no justification, and his rhetoric vilifying refugees is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of refugees on the front lines of our nation’s COVID-19 response,” Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said in a statement to Border Report.
“The Trump administration has affirmed yet again that the president does not have our national security interests or our moral commitments in mind,” Noorani said.
The reduction was announced shortly after President Donald Trump, during a campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota, vilified refugees as an unwanted burden and said his opponent, Vice President Joe Biden, wants to flood the state with foreigners.
“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp, and he said that — overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools and inundating hospitals. You know that. It’s already there. It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to your state,” Trump said.
The Associated Press reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration is committed to the country’s history of leading the world in providing a safe place for refugees.
“We continue to be the single greatest contributor to the relief of humanitarian crisis all around the world, and we will continue to do so,” Pompeo told reporters in Rome on the sidelines of a conference on religious freedom organized by the U.S. Embassy. “Certainly so long as President Trump is in office, I can promise you this administration is deeply committed to that.”
Refugee advocates were leery, however, and urged that more leniency in numbers be granted, particularly to children refugees.
“COVID has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable among us, including refugees. Now more than ever, refugees need our support. And it’s vital that the entire world remember our shared promise to humanity: that we’re in this together,” said Daniel Wordsworth, CEO and president of the global nonprofit Alight, which helps refugees. “As the lowest cap on refugee entry to date, this will certainly impact the sense of hope felt by the refugees we serve.”
“We urge the Trump administration to prioritize family reunification and resettling the most vulnerable refugees like children who have lost their parents,” Palusky said. “We pray that the American people and leadership will not turn their backs on displaced people around the world, which is only growing in number. We have the ability to reunify families, protect people from persecution, and alleviate suffering for so many lives.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.