A Burqa-wearing Afghan refugee crosses in front of demolished houses in the Khazana refugees camp outskirts of Peshawar on Oct. 24, 2016.
Photo by A Majeed/AFP/Getty

Would the Trump admin effectively halt the US refugee program?


It’s been nearly 40 years since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, creating standards for the protection and resettlement of foreigners fleeing violence and persecution. It’s widely seen as a successful program – though Donald Trump and his team tend to disagree.

About a year ago, the Republican administration capped the number of refugees eligible to resettle on American soil at 30,000. As the New York Times reported at the time, the number represented “the lowest ceiling a president has placed on the refugee program since its creation in 1980, and a reduction of a third from the 45,000-person limit that Mr. Trump set for 2018.”

Politico reported overnight that the White House now has a new number in mind, which is lower than last year’s ceiling – which is to say, 100% lower.

The Trump administration is considering a virtual shutdown of refugee admissions next year – cutting the number to nearly zero – according to three people familiar with the plan.

During a key meeting of security officials on refugee admissions last week, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services representative who is closely aligned with White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller suggested setting a cap at zero, the people said. Homeland Security Department officials at the meeting later floated making the level anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000, according to one of the people.

The proposal for a near-shutdown of the refugee program is alarming officials at the Department of Defense, who don’t want to see a halt in admissions of Iraqis who risked their lives assisting U.S. forces in that country.

In practical terms, Trump wants to make the transition from dramatically curtailing refugee admissions to effectively ending refugee admissions.

The result, Politico added, “would strand thousands of people already far along in the process and damage the ability of resettlement agencies to process refugees in future years, according to advocates tracking the issue.”

It’s worth emphasizing that the discussions appear to be preliminary, and there’s been no official announcement about lowering the ceiling to zero. Presumably, this will be the subject of considerable debate in the near future.

Indeed, given the circumstances, I wonder if Politico’s multiple sources leaked word of the plan in order to help warn everyone about the possibility.