The Trump administration said on Thursday in a statement it would dramatically cut the number of refugees to be resettled in the United States in the 2020 fiscal year to 18,000, the lowest level in the history of the modern refugee programme.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump, who campaigned on restricting immigration, has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the United States – decisions decried by human rights advocates and national security experts.
Last year, the administration capped the programme at 30,000 refugees for 2019, down from 45,000 people in 2018, which itself was the lowest ceiling since 1980.
Despite the 45,000 cap last year, however, only 22,491 refugees were admitted, according to government data. In his last year of office, former President Barack Obama had set the cap at 110,000 refugees.
Behind the reductions were more stringent security protocols for citizens of 11 countries designated by the administration as presenting the greatest potential threat.
The US Department of State acknowledged that the screening and vetting procedures have resulted in fewer refugee admissions in 2018.
The tighter screening of refugees reflects one of Trump’s signature issues. He imposed a controversial travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries as one of his first actions upon taking office in January 2017.
Amid reports earlier this month that revealed the Trump administration was considering the refugee cuts, several 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls said such a move would be “immoral”.
A group of retired US military generals and officers had also sent a letter to the Trump administration, expressing their “grave concerns” about reports of further cuts to the refugee programme.