The United States is set to bring down refugee admission for the upcoming year. In an announcement made by the US Department of State on Wednesday, October 30, the administration is expected to allow not more than 15,000 refugees into the country in 2021. The new cap on the number of refugees admitted will be 3,000 less than the 18,000 mark set for the current year. The reason given for such a measure is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The government justified the move as an attempt to supposedly prioritize “safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” The announcement was made very late in the night, and just less than an hour before the deadline to notify the US Congress of the proposed changes.
While the changes are supposed to be cleared by the Congress, it is seldom ever challenged by the legislature. The new admission bar will be the lowest in US history, because of the repeated annual cuts since the beginning of the Donald Trump administration. This year alone, the US admitted only around 10,800 refugees until March, before freezing all refugees admission because of the pandemic.
The latest move also comes hours after an election rally by Trump who is seeking re-election in November this year. Trump lashed out at his opponent Joe Biden’s campaign promise to gradually increase annual refugee admission to over 125,000. Trump claimed that Biden and the Democrats want to flood the country with refugees at the cost of US citizens.
The move to cut down on refugee admission is in line with the overall policy of the administration to curb immigration. Since Trump took over presidency in 2016, the administration has heightened vetting for asylum seekers, expanded punitive measures against undocumented migrants, built new detention facilities that have separated migrant families and used COVID-19 to freeze a range of visas and refugee admission programs.