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U.S. Administration Proposes Historically Low Refugee Limit

File - Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, speaks during a briefing at the White House. He recently has suggested changes to the refugee acceptance program. (AP)
File - Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, speaks during a briefing at the White House. He recently has suggested changes to the refugee acceptance program. (AP)
Trump Administration Proposes Historically Low Refugee Limit
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American President Donald Trump and his administration have proposed that the United States accept up to 18,000 refugees in the coming year.

The State Department said the proposed number would be the lowest since 1980.

For the 12 months ending on September 30, the country will have accepted about 30,000 refugees.

If the administration’s proposal is approved, next year will be the third year of cuts to refugee resettlement under the Trump presidency.

The final decision will be made in the coming weeks. It will come in what U.S. officials are calling “presidential determination.” A top administration official said the decision will be made after discussions with Congress.

No new refugees can be admitted in the fiscal year of 2020 until the presidential determination is approved. The fiscal year is related to government spending. It begins on October 1 and continues until the end of September the following year.

New refugee resettlement proposals

Before Trump’s election in 2016, the Associated Press reported, the number of refugees accepted was between 60,000 and 70,000 a year, on average.

During the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the refugee limit was set at 110,000. Trump reduced that number by more than half in his first year as president. At the time, Trump noted concerns about national security.

Supporters of resettling refugees had called for a limit of 95,000 in 2020.

Daryl Grisgarber deals with humanitarian issues for the aid group Oxfam America. He criticized the administration proposal shortly after it was announced Thursday.

“Today’s refugee admissions announcement is a signal to the world that the U.S. is no longer a welcoming place,” he said.

The proposed limit on refugees is one of three changes to the resettlement program.

The president also approved an executive order that will require state and local governments to “consent” to accept refugees for resettlement. The move would give states the ability to prevent nonprofit organizations operating in the state from accepting refugees. The move comes after Tennessee officials unsuccessfully brought legal action against the federal government to stop resettlement in their state.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah is president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. She disagreed with Trump’s executive order and said that immigration was a federal issue.

Critics of the U.S. refugee program have called for the number of admissions to be cut and other changes.

The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, is suggesting additional changes. He said, “I think you might see some other entities that get to play a role in making decisions about refugees and resettlement here in the near future.”

Cuccinelli spoke to the group Center for Immigration Studies.

In addition to the new limit and new powers for state and local officials, the State Department is creating a new classification for refugees.

For the 2020 fiscal year, the total number would include up to 5,000 refugees persecuted because of their religious beliefs. The U.S. would accept 4,000 Iraqis who assisted the U.S. military during operations in Iraq. And it would accept up to 1,500 refugees from the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

consent – v. to agree to permit or do something

role – n. the part that someone or something plays in an activity or situation

persecuted – adj. to be mistreated or harmed because of religious, political beliefs or race