Trump Sets FY2018 Refugee Cap to a Responsible 45,000
Legislative Update By: Liz Jacobs
On Wednesday, September 27, the Trump administration informed Congress that it will limit the number of refugees entering the United States to 45,000 for the next fiscal year. (Reuters, Sept. 27, 2017) The new cap kicks in October 1 and returns the refugee resettlement rate back to traditional levels. (FAIR Immigration Basics, 2016) Previously, President Obama had increased the annual cap for FY 2017 by more than double from FY 2015, to an unprecedented 110,000 refugees per year, before leaving office. (Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2016)
Although the cap is the lowest ceiling since 1980, actual refugee admissions had been significantly lower than 45,000 in previous years. (CRS Report, Nov. 30, 2016) Admission numbers were well below 45,000 for numerous years of the George W. Bush administration. (Id.) For example, the United States admitted 26,785 refugees in 2001; 28,286 refugees in 2002; and 41,223 refugees in 2006. (Id.)
President Trump’s decision to limit the cap to 45,000 is in line with recommendations made by both the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security. (Politico, Sept. 26, 2017) The Department of State recommended a ceiling of 50,000. (Id.) The Department of Homeland Security, however, suggested limiting the cap even further to 40,000, citing concerns regarding the agency’s backlog of asylum applications. (Id.) The announced level for FY2018 splits the difference between these recommendations as a nice compromise that both Departments can handle.
Resettling refugees in the United States is far more costly than providing direct aid for temporary resettlement closer to the home country. “For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region,” Trump noted in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, citing research by the Center for Immigration Studies. (Vox, Sept. 19, 2017) “This is the safe, responsible and humanitarian approach.” (Id.)
Federal immigration law gives the president broad power to set an annual cap. (Refugee Act of 1980) In fact, the only requirement an administration must follow is general consulting with the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to explain its rationale for its decision before the new fiscal year begins. (Id.)