President Donald Trump has once again scaled back how many asylum seekers are allowed to resettle in the US, a decision that has highlighted a sharp policy difference with Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the election.
The US leader capped the number of refugees that will be welcomed into the country at 15,000, believed to be a record low since the start of Washington’s refugee program. In a memo published on Tuesday night, Trump said that the new limit for Fiscal Year 2021, which began in October, includes 6,000 unused refugee slots from last year that were left vacant due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inbox: Trump administration announces refugee cap of 15,000 in 2021, including 6,000 spots carried over from this year due to Covid.
That's down from an 18,000 ceiling in 2019 and nearly 85,000 refugees taken in under Obama in FY2016. pic.twitter.com/vOQsssryxG
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) October 28, 2020
In total, 5,000 places are reserved for refugees facing religious persecution, 4,000 for refugees from Iraq who aided the United States military in the region, and 1,000 for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The remaining 5,000 slots are open to the rest of refugee applicants. Due to alleged terrorism risks, asylum seekers from Somalia, Syria and Yemen are barred from participating in the program, except in special circumstances.
In his order, Trump said that only states and localities which have “clearly expressing their willingness to receive refugees” should be asked to house asylum seekers. He also stressed that communities which choose to take in refugees should be prepared to “support their successful integration into American society” and ensure a smooth transition into the labor force.
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Since the start of his term, Trump has made drastic cuts to the number of refugees permitted to start a new life in the United States. Fiscal Year 2020 had a quota of 18,000 people. In Fiscal Year 2016, then-president Barack Obama resettled nearly 85,000 refugees.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein railed against the move in a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week.
“We can’t abandon America’s global leadership role by turning our back on these people,” she wrote in a tweet which included a copy of the letter.
Before President Trump took office, the U.S. resettled 80,000+ refugees on average per year. Next year’s ceiling for admissions: 15,000. And even fewer will be let in. That cap MUST be raised. We can’t abandon America’s global leadership role by turning our back on these people. pic.twitter.com/lFyPBtxTp1
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) October 22, 2020
The Democrats have attacked Trump’s hardline approach to immigration ahead of the November 3 presidential contest. Biden has vowed to raise refugee admissions to 125,000 a year and increase the number over time if he defeats the incumbent Republican, with his campaign saying that “offering hope and safe haven to refugees is part of who we are as a country.”
Trump has received both praise and scorn for the separation wall being constructed along the US-Mexico border. His administration’s treatment of illegal immigrants who are detained while crossing into the country has also come under scrutiny, although Trump has been quick to point out that some of the most troubling practices, including putting migrant children in “cages,” actually began under the Obama administration.
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