Two days after the Trump administration officially abandoned its controversial travel ban in favor of targeted restrictions singling out travelers from a larger list of countries, Foreign Policy is reporting that the Trump administration plans to dramatically reduce the number of refugees that the US accepts every year – the long-awaited second part of the administration’s immigration agenda.
The new targeted restrictions, officially confirmed late Sunday, range from a near-total ban on visitors from some countries to restrictions on only a small number of visas in others. Officials say they were applied to countries that were unable or unwilling to adopt policies that help vet their nationals to detect security threats.
Combined with the Trump administration’s new “targeted” restrictions – to be sure, pro-immigration groups have vowed a legal challenge – the tighter restrictions on refugees represent the replacement of a section of Trump’s travel ban that faced fierce resistence from federal district judges who repeatedly tried to overturn the ban, or limit its scope.
The long-awaited decision comes less than a week after Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that the United States prefers to prevent refugees from leaving their region and resettling in the United States. It comes at a time when the ranks of the world’s refugees have swelled to more than 22 million, placing an enormous burden on countries from Bangladesh to Turkey.
“For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region,” Trump told the gathering in remarks that were overshadowed by the president’s threat to destroy North Korea and his criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.
Foreign Policy explained that the new limits on refugees represented a compromise between White House hardliners who wanted to slash the resettlement program deeper, and moderates who wanted to preserve the program, even if at a lower level than under former President Barack Obama.
Stephen Miller, a White House advisor and key architect of the president’s immigration policies, had argued for a far smaller number, but was overruled.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security recommended a slightly higher quota, arguing that it would give the US leverage to encourage other nations to accept refugees.
The Department of Homeland Security had argued behind closed doors for a ceiling of 40,000. But Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan suggested that the U.S. could easily absorb 50,000 new refugees and that a more generous resettlement policy could provide other diplomatic benefits, including greater leverage in encouraging other countries to resettle refugees, and enhance the United States’ moral standing in the world.
According to FP, the State Department proposal was backed by the office of the vice president, the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the US mission to the United Nations. The military pushed for special provisions to allow for the resettlement of interpreters from countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, who would be targeted as collaborators by insurgents if left in their own countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reportedly responsible for picking the final number for the quota.
Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson undercut Sullivan’s position, proposing that the number be reduced to 45,000, according to one administration official and a former U.S. official.
The news agency Axios first reported on Tillerson’s recommendation to cap refugee resettlement at 45,000. Tillerson and Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, will present a report to Congress Wednesday detailing the request for 45,000 to Congress.
The Administration’s decision comes as the number of refugees around the world swells to more than 20 million as countries from Bangladesh to Turkey to Germany have absorbed large numbers of migrants fleeing conflicts in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. However, the EU has struggled to formulate a comprehensive response to the refugee crisis. By reducing its refugee quota, Trump is sending a message that he remains a hardliner on immigration, despite striking a deal that will likely allow Democrats to pass legislation enshrining DACA into law.
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