The number of refugees admitted to the United States has fallen to historic lows under President Donald Trump, and soon could tumble even further, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of State Department data.
For decades the world leader in refugee admissions, the United States is now second to Canada.
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The decline comes as the number of refugees around the globe — about 25.9 million — has reached its highest level since World War II.
The Trump administration has pushed hard on all fronts to limit immigration, including sending asylum-seekers at the southern border back to Mexico and seeking to penalize legal immigrants who get help from public assistance programs.
The term refugee carries a specific meaning: those who have been forced by war, persecution, or violence to flee their home countries. They’re unable to return because of well-founded fears that they could be harmed due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
The Pew report, produced by senior writer and editor Jens Manuel Krogstad, who studies global migration, and Jynnah Radford, a former research assistant, arrives just ahead of what is known as the Presidential Determination, or PD.
Every fall, usually toward the end of September, the American president sets a refugee ceiling, determining the maximum number who may enter during the fiscal year.
Under Trump, admissions have declined substantially.
In fiscal 2016, Pew noted, the United States set a limit of 85,000 refugees and admitted nearly that many. The following year, about 53,700 refugees resettled in the country, reflecting the temporary freeze that Trump ordered shortly after taking office.
In fiscal 2018, his first full fiscal year as president, he set the ceiling at 45,000, at the time a historic low. Only about 22,500 were eventually admitted.
For the current fiscal year, he capped refugee admissions at 30,000. As of Aug. 31, about 28,100 had been allowed into this country, Pew said.
National news agencies report that the president is considering another deep cut, to between 10,000 to 15,000, or even to zero, in fiscal 2020.
From January 2017 to through August 2019, the Trump administration has admitted about 74,200 refugees. By comparison, the U.S. admitted nearly 85,000 in fiscal 2016 alone, the last full fiscal year of the Obama administration.
Historically, the number of refugees coming to this country has varied according to global events and national priorities, Pew noted.
From fiscal years 1990 to 1995, an average of about 116,000 refugees arrived each year, many from the former Soviet Union.
That dropped dramatically after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, to roughly 27,100 in 2002, then began rising. From fiscal 2008 to 2017, an average of 67,100 refugees arrived each year, many from Iraq and Myanmar.
So far in fiscal 2019, the 12,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have outnumbered those from any other nation. Next among the top sending countries were Myanmar, 4,700; Ukraine, 3,800; Eritrea, 1,700; and Afghanistan, 1,000, according to Pew.