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US makes more cuts to refugee program

14 October 20200 comments

The US Government is planning to cut further the number of refugees the United States accepts to a new record low next year.

In a recent notice to Congress, the Trump administration said it intended to admit a maximum of 15,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021, 3,000 fewer than the 18,000 ceiling the administration set last year.

Many in the democrat-dominated Congress oppose the cut but, despite a formal review getting underway, they will be largely powerless to force changes.

The more than 16.5 per cent reduction was announced shortly after President Donald Trump, on the campaign trail in Minnesota, claimed his rival former Vice President Joe Biden planned to “flood the state with foreigners”.

The administration froze refugee admissions in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing a need to protect American jobs as fallout from the coronavirus 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 media at a conference in Rome recently.

But refugee advocates say the government’s actions show the opposite.

Since taking office, President Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country by more than 80 per cent, reflecting his broader efforts to drastically reduce both legal and illegal immigration.

The US allowed in just over 10,800 refugees – a little more than half of the 18,000 cap set by Trump for 2020 – before the State Department suspended the program because of the coronavirus.

The 18,000 cap was already the lowest in the history of the program. In addition, the State Department announced last week that it would no longer provide some statistical information on refugee resettlement, sparking more concerns.

Advocates say the Trump administration is dismantling a program that has long enjoyed bipartisan support and has been considered a model for protecting the world’s most vulnerable people.

Scores of resettlement organisations have closed because of the reduction in federal funding, which is tied to the number of refugees placed in the US.

Refugee advocates, including faith-based groups that as seen as part of President Trump’s base, have called on Congress to reverse the cuts.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organisation, slammed the cuts to the refugee program as part of “the ongoing Trump administration effort to maintain systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy.”

The Church World Service, which helps resettle refugees in the United States, described the shrinking of refugee admissions as immoral and urged Congress to step in.

Congress can recommend changes or seek to influence the decision through budgeting, but is largely powerless to alter the determination.

But the president ultimately makes decisions on refugees allowed in under the 1980 Refugee Act.