Updated: Apr 11, 2019
The State Department announced that the United States would decrease the number of refugees allowed into the country.
By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief
The United States is set to limit the number of refugees admitted into the country to an all-time low of 30,000 for the fiscal-year of 2019.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in September that the number of refugees to be allowed in the United States from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2019, would be capped at 30,000. This number will be lowest cap set in the refugee resettlement program’s history since its inception in 1980, following the passage of the Refugee Act. Pompeo attempted to stem the upcoming criticism by saying that the country would process more than 280,000 asylum claims.
“These expansive figures continue the United States’ long-standing record as the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration and assistance,” Pompeo said.
The recent cap is the latest one in President Donald Trump’s administration. In 2017, the limit was lowered to 50,000 from the planned 110,000 by former President Barack Obama. In 2018, the cap was limited further at 45,000. Both previous limits were all-time lows for the program, whereas the previous record low was at 67,000 in 1986, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
As of Aug. 31, about 19,899 refugees from the 45,000 applicants for the current fiscal year have been admitted to the United States, according to data from the State Department. Applicants from Africa and the East/South Asia region make up the bulk of the total at 19,000 and 17,500, respectively.
However, less than half of the applicants from Africa and less than 21 percent from Asia were accepted. Conversely, there were 2,000 applicants from Europe, but 3,173 were accepted into the United States.
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which will change their rules and allow them to determine whether an immigrant is inadmissible to the country if the person in question may become a public charge – a person likely to be primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.
Criticism of the new refugee limit came swiftly. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), an American non-profit organization that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees, issued a statement to Newsweek that lambasted the president for betraying the country’s history of giving people fleeing from violence and persecution a safe haven.
“By setting the refugee number this low, this administration is betraying the commitments made after World War II,” HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield said, “followed by decades of bipartisan support, to ensure that the world never again turns its back on innocent people seeking safety.”
Most Reverend Joe S. Vasquez, Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, called the limit cap “deeply disturbing and leaves many human lives in danger.”
“To cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution … contradicts who we are as a nation,” Vasquez said. “Closing our doors on those seeking safety is not who we are as a people.”
At the end of the 2018 fiscal year on Sept. 30, the United States will have accepted less than 23,000 refugees, the lowest in the program’s history.
Many people attempt to flee to the United States to escape violence, fearing that they will be killed if they stayed. Wayner Berduo, a man who has faced gang violence in Guatemala, and his family have tried multiple times to seek asylum, to no avail.
“If we go back home, they will kill us,” Berduo told NPR.