The Trump administration said on Wednesday it intends to further slash the number of refugees the U.S accepts to resettle from 18,000 to 15,000 in the 2021 fiscal year, setting another record low in the history of the modern refugee program, ABC News reports.
The notice was sent to Congress late Wednesday, just 34 minutes before a statutory deadline to do so. The state department said the proposal reflected the Trump administration’s prioritizing of the “safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The proposal includes specific allocations for refugees who suffered persecution on the basis of religion from Iraq who helped the United States; and for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Cuba, and Venezuela, according to the state department.
The proposal will be reviewed by Congress, where there are strong objections to the cuts, but lawmakers will be largely powerless to force changes.
The move comes after President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota talked about how refugees can be an unwanted burden. He claimed the former vice president Joe Biden wants to flood the state with foreigners.
“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp, and he said that — overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools and inundating hospitals. You know that. It’s already there. It’s a disgrace what they’ve done to your state,” Trump told supporters.
Trump froze this year’s refugee admissions in March, citing a need to protect American jobs as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic crashed the economy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration is committed to the country’s history of leading the world in providing a safe place for refugees.
“We continue to be the single greatest contributor to the relief of humanitarian crisis all around the world, and we will continue to do so,” Pompeo told reporters in Rome on the sidelines of a conference on religious freedom organized by the U.S. Embassy. “Certainly so long as President Trump is in office, I can promise you this administration is deeply committed to that.”
Advocates fear the government is intentionally delaying its plans for the 2021 fiscal year as a way to eventually eliminate the refugee programme.
Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country by more than 80%.
The previous 18,000 cap was already the lowest in the history of the program.