US sets 2018 refugee quota at 45,000, lowest since 1980

FILE PHOTO: Syrian refugees take notes during their Vocational ESL class at the International Rescue Committee center in San Diego on August 31, 2016. © AFP / Free

The Trump administration has announced it will limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States for the next fiscal year to 45,000, the lowest level in decades. A refugee resettlement group called the decision “contrary to American values.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed Congress Wednesday about the presidential determination relating to a cap on refugees for the 2018 fiscal budget year, which starts Sunday.

The administration aims to admit 19,000 refugees from Africa; 5,000 from East Asia; 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia; 1,500 from the Caribbean and Latin America, and 17,500 from Near East and South Asia.

The new ceiling will come into effect on October 1. President Donald Trump is expected to announce details of the new plan in the coming days.

The decision comes after a drawn-out discussion within the Trump administration regarding whether or not to allow more or fewer refugees into the US. The administration was considering a decision that would fall between the Homeland Security Department’s proposed cap of 40,000, and the State Department’s preferred ceiling of 50,000 refugees, The Detroit News reported citing unnamed officials.

President Barack Obama had set a goal of allowing 110,000 refugees into the US in 2017, but his successor has significantly reduced that number.

The Department of Homeland Security is also working to enhance vetting and screening procedures used in the refugee resettlement process set forth by the president in previous orders related to travel bans, unnamed senior administration officials said. The new vetting measures are expected to be implemented before October 18.

Groups that partner with the US government to resettle refugees were unhappy by the administration’s announcement.

“Today a dark shadow has passed across the great American legacy and promise of protecting refugees,” said Linda Hartke, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, according to the New York Times. “The threat of a drastically low ceiling on refugee arrivals in the US is contrary to American values and the spirit of generosity in American churches and communities.”

Earlier in the week, Trump issued new travel restrictions on nationals of eight countries while expanding his controversial “travel ban.” The new restrictions will continue to apply to travelers from Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Iran, while North Korea, Chad and Venezuela has been added to the list.

READ MORE: Tough vetting for new refugees entering US after 50,000 yearly limit reached

Trump’s initial limit of 50,000 refugees being allowed to enter the US, was reached on July 12. However, refugees are still allowed to enter if they can show a “bona fide relationship” to a US citizen, under rulings set by the US Supreme Court.

Before the Supreme Court allowed parts of the president’s temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations to go into effect in June, attorneys general in several Democratic-majority states successfully obtained injunctions against the ban in lower courts.

Even so, the number of refugees coming into the US declined. Only 2,070 refugees arrived in March, compared to the 9,945 that entered the country in October of 2016.