Mike Pence Brags About 'America's Proud Record' of Supporting Refugees as Trump Continues to Restrict Admissions

As the partial government shutdown enters its 27th day because President Donald Trump wants Congress to fund a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants, Vice President Mike Pence urged U.S. ambassadors around the world to tell America's allies that the country isn't against refugees.

"Make it clear to our allies around the world that the United States supports legal immigration. In fact, we celebrate it, and America has a proud record of support for refugees," Pence told ambassadors during a speech at the State Department on Wednesday. The speech was held despite the fact that many ambassadors around the world are not being paid because of the government shutdown and the State Department has been partially closed down.

Most American diplomats around the world are expected to work during the shutdown and will likely receive back pay when government funding resumes. While passports and visas are still being issued, humanitarian assistance in case of a national emergency might be delayed.

And despite Pence's comments, the Trump administration has all but halted refugee admissions over the last several years. Only 45,000 refugees were technically permitted in the U.S. in 2018, and that number is expected to drop to 30,000 in 2019. Government data has demonstrated, however, that the Trump administration has resettled fewer refugees than the official cap.

Mike Pence speaks from the podium during an event. Pence urged U.S. ambassadors around the world to tell America’s allies that the country isn’t against refugees. Mark Reinstein/Corbis/Getty Images

By contrast, the Obama administration settled around 85,000 refugees in 2016.

In June, the organization Refugees International "graded" the Trump administration's refugee policy and gave it an F.

"Unfortunately, over the past 17 months, the Trump administration has significantly weakened U.S. domestic refugee law and humanitarian policy. This of course includes the inhumane separation of families seeking asylum at the southwest border of the United States," the report from Refugees International reads.

"But there are many other examples of this erosion of basic protection principles, including the dramatic weakening of the U.S. political asylum process generally, the crippling of the U.S. Refugee Admissions program, and the disregard of humanitarian imperatives in the application of Temporary Protected Status. In humanitarian activities overseas, President Trump sought to roll back U.S. leadership in financial support for lifesaving assistance based on need, imposed policies that adversely impact women and girls, and failed to assert leadership in efforts to end conflicts that continue to inflict horrific humanitarian suffering," the organization continued.

In November, Trump signed a proclamation that banned migrants who enter the U.S. illegally from applying for asylum. The rule has already faced legal challenges. Separately, on Thursday, the Office of the Inspector General released a report admitting that the Trump administration does not know how many migrant children were separated from their parents after entering the U.S. border.

"This policy was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents. We will be back in court over this latest revelation," Lee Gelernt, lead attorney and deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.

Trump is requesting $5.7 billion for his border wall, a sum that Democrats have insisted they will not approve.