'A Very Sad Day for America': Trump Administration Condemned for Slashing Refugee Admissions to Lowest Limit Ever

The Trump administration is facing widespread backlash after revealing plans to set the cap on the number of refugees to be admitted into the U.S. next year at 18,000, marking the lowest level since the program was first launched 40 years ago.

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program's new cap represents a 40 percent drop from this year's limit, which was already significantly lower than the nearly 85,000 refugees that the U.S. allowed in under the Obama administration in 2016.

Railing against the Trump administration's decision, David Miliband, the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which works in support of refugees, said the Thursday announcement marked "a very sad day for America."

"This decision represents further damage to America's leadership on protecting the most vulnerable people around the world," Miliband said in a statement shared with Newsweek. "It has no basis in logic or need, damages America's interests, and tarnishes her values."

"It is an unspeakable setback for refugee mothers who wish to see their children in school, parents who wish to work and support their family, and children who deserve a chance at life that isn't solely defined by the instability and the trauma of their childhood," he said.

Calling the U.S.'s refugee resettlement program an "essential lifeline" to "vulnerable refugees at a time of unprecedented global crisis," Miliband said: "historic bipartisan support for this program—providing safety for persecuted people–has demonstrated U.S. values in action."

Now, the Trump administration is drawing those values into question on the international stage, he suggested, before calling on Congress to act by passing legislation seeking to set the "minimum annual goal" for admissions at 95,000, which it has reached in the past.

"With the administration slashing admissions and disregarding this bipartisan tradition, Congress has the power to act to uphold America's legacy by passing the GRACE Act which would set 95,000 as the minimum annual goal in line with historic norms," Miliband said.

The GRACE Act was introduced by Democratic California Rep. Zoe Lofgren on April 9 this past year.

While it is likely it would pass in the House, it is not clear whether it would be approved by Senate, despite the Refugee Admissions Program's historically bipartisan support.

"Only the most critical cases are referred and approved for resettlement-survivors of unspeakable violence, those with urgent health conditions and those separated from their families, among others."

According to the organization, the U.S. already currently has 30,000 people who have completed Department of Homeland Security interviews for resettlement, more than double the number that the Trump administration is planning to allow to enter the U.S. in the next year. Meanwhile, nearly 9,000 of those who have completed interviews are "ready for travel."

"A halt to resettlement means many refugees in our communities will be left without casework expertise that is key to success in their integration—undermining the documented potential of refugees to realize and contribute," the IRC said. "Refugees are entrepreneurial, creating jobs and adding vibrancy to local economies, and refugees have filled critical healthcare and transportation jobs in regions some of the nation's tightest labor markets."

In a separate statement, Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said that "such a low cap will further undermine the U.S. refugee resettlement program, hurt the network that helps refugees integrate, and damage our nation's standing in the world."

"Refugees contribute to our economy and communities," Noorani said. "We are hurting not only our standing but also ourselves."

World Relief CEO Tim Breene also condemned the Trump administration's decision, asserting in a statement sent to Newsweek: "We are heartbroken by the devastating ripple effect this drastic reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will cause around the world."

"If America continues to systematically shutter the program designed to welcome and offer safe haven to human beings made in the image of God, we fear that other countries will continue to follow our example, doing less at a time when the number of refugees in need of protection globally is increasing," Breene said. "This proposed cut to the refugee resettlement program not only denies safety and freedom to people fleeing religious persecution, war and genocide, but also further dismantles our ability to demonstrate Christ-like hospitality toward the vulnerable."

Immigration protest
People protest against the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies on July 12, 2019. The Trump administration is now planning to lower refugee admissions to their lowest limit ever since the program started 40 years ago. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty