The Trump administration is considering cutting refugee admissions to zero in 2020, Politico reports.
Approximately 20 officials from Citizenship and Immigration Services, State Department, DOJ, Defense, Homeland Security, and the National Security Council attended a meeting on refugee admissions last week. An official from Citizenship and Immigration Services who is closely allied with Stephen Miller advocated for slashing the number to zero, according to three people knowledgeable of the plan. According to Politico, representatives from Homeland Security suggested setting the cap between 3,000 and 10,000.
The Trump administration cut admissions by a third, from 45,000 to 30,000, last year, a 38 year low and down significantly from the 110,000 cap set from the Obama administration for 2017. 1980 was the year the refugee program was begun and statistics kept. During the 2018 fiscal year, only 21,000 refugees were admitted.
The argument put forth by Miller allies John Zadrozny, from Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Andrew Veprek, a State Department official, for cutting the number of refugee admissions to a low number is that the US must protect against security threats and already affords humanitarian protections through the asylum process. However, the Trump administration will be implementing, barring court action, a new regulation that will effectively prevent the vast majority of migrants from seeking asylum.
Furthermore, the CATO institute, a libertarian think tank, conducted an analysis of data from 1975 -2017 and found that refugees do not pose a significant security or terror threat, with the chance of a refugee murdering an American in a terrorist attack being approximately 1 in 3.86 billion. David Inserra, from the Heritage Foundation, points out that even if one is very concerned about conflict impacted regions, there are refugees from other areas that could be accepted.
Last year, the Defense Department advocated for keeping the cap at 45,000 in order to protect US interests. 100,000 Iraqi applicants are in line to be admitted as refugees, many of whom put their lives on the line as translators and interpreters to help US combat forces in Iraq. Only 140 of the Iraqi applicants that are of particular importance to the Defense Department have completed the process and been accepted this year.
Then-secretary James Mattis sent a letter to national security adviser John Bolton during the discussions about refugee caps last year. The letter said, “Over the last 17 years of war, numerous Iraqi nationals have risked their own lives and their families’ lives by aligning with our diplomats and warfighters providing essential mission support. We owe them support for their commitment.” He added that more individuals from immigrant families than natural born families enlist in the military, so there is an additional benefit to accepting refugees.
More than 29,000 applicants have completed interviews and nearly 9,000 refugees have been approved to travel to the US. A wholesale stoppage would strand those individuals already in the process of applying for refugee status and cripple the refugee programs for the foreseeable future, refugee advocates fear.
The administration will make a decision on the numbers for 2020 next month and the decision will be announced in September. Per Politico, the pertinent agencies will submit their recommended numbers by August 1st. The Trump administration is also required to consult with congressional committees in making a determination.