The Trump administration floated the possibility of admitting zero refugees next year during a recent meeting with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, the Pentagon and other agencies, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
A number of options are being discussed and the zero option already received pushback from some government officials, according to one source.
The crack down on refugees is in line with the administration’s immigration agenda which has sought to limit entry to the US. Earlier this week, the administration also put in place a regulation that bars most Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the US.
Politico reported on the details of the meeting, which took place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with around 20 officials last week.
According to Politico, two allies of White House adviser Stephen Miller, Citizenship and Immigration Services official John Zadrozny and the State Department’s Andrew Veprek, argued in the meeting that the refugee cap should be low because of “ongoing security concerns and the ability of the US to offer humanitarian protections through the asylum process.”
Advocates immediately raised alarm over the news that refugee admissions could be reduced to zero.
“The United States is a country built by refugees. To refuse to admit refugees, at a time when there are a record number of people fleeing their homes around the world, is a cowardly, racially motivated abdication of our nation’s values,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley.
The number of refugees worldwide hit an unprecedented high of 70.8 million people in 2018, according to the United Nations.
During the Trump administration, the number of refugee refugees allowed to be admitted to the United States has been dramatically reduced – from 110,000 in fiscal year 2017 to 30,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019.
A number of agencies are expected to submit their recommendations in the coming weeks.
The refugee cap is determined by several departments and agencies, and approved by the President. Where as the cap has often been viewed as a goal to be reached, the actual number of refugees admitted has fallen short. The administration had set the 2018 ceiling at 45,000 refugees, only 23,000 were admitted, according to figures by the Refugee Processing Center.
So far, the administration has admitted more than 21,000 refugees as of June 30, according to government data.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the interagency conversations.
“Each year, the President makes an annual determination, after appropriate consultation with Congress, regarding the refugee admissions ceiling for the following fiscal year. That determination is expected to be made prior to the start of fiscal year 2020 on October 1, 2019. We have nothing further to announce at this time,” said the spokesperson.
Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the number should not be considered as “the sole barometer” of the United States’ commitment to humanitarian efforts around the world, adding that the US would “focus on the humanitarian protection cases of those already in the country.”