The Lowest Refugee Ceiling Since 1980 to Be Set by President Trump

By Nayla Rush on September 27, 2017

President Trump is expected to set the FY 2018 refugee ceiling at 45,000. That would be the lowest refugee ceiling since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which standardized resettlement services for all refugees admitted to the United States.

While this would be the lowest ceiling set by the president, actual refugee admissions have been lower than 45,000 in some previous years. Following 9/11, for instance, admissions fell to 26,785 in 2001 and 28,286 in 2002, while FY 2006 saw 41,223 admissions. (All three years had a 70,000 ceiling.)

The drop in admissions in 2006 was partly due to the following changes within the resettlement program: The formation of the Refugee Corps within the Department of Homeland Security took place in 2005. The Refugee Corps, as explained by the State Department, "will be comprised of a cadre of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers dedicated to adjudicating applications for refugee status. Refugee Officers will be based in Washington, D.C., but will travel to overseas locations for up to fifty percent of the year...By establishing such a corps, USCIS will gain increased flexibility to respond to the evolving U.S. Refugee Program. In addition, hiring permanent Refugee Officers will ensure greater consistency and quality of refugee adjudications." Subsequently, FY 2006 was the first full year of a functioning Refugee Corps.

Legislative changes were also introduced that year which "broadened the categories of activities that cause an individual to be found ineligible for admission based upon one of the terrorist grounds."

For a yearly account of refugee resettlement Ceiling and admissions for FY 1980-2017*, see the figure below taken from a report by the Migration Policy Institute:

Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceiling and Number of Refugees Admitted, FY 1980-2017

* Data for FY 2017 are partial and refer to resettlement between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017.
Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, "Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year," various years, and Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis of Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System (WRAPS) data from the State Department, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

To date, 53,378 refugees have been resettled since the beginning of FY 2017 (October 1, 2016).

If the 45,000 admissions cap is confirmed by President Trump, that would be the lowest presidential determination of refugee admissions since the refugee resettlement program, as we know it, was set in motion. That, undoubtedly, will generate numerous reactions, good and bad.

Topics: Refugees