Without the new entry quota, the U.S. Refugee Rehabilitation Program will not be able to take in new refugees.
U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be ignoring the deadline to decide how many refugees will be allowed into the U.S. next year, raising uncertainty about the future of the declining 40-year resettlement program during his administration.
According to the 1980 Refugee Act, presidents must issue their decision by October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. With just hours to go before Wednesday, the Trump administration did not consult with Congress before deciding on an annual number.
There has been no immediate comment from the White House, which usually announces target numbers, or from state or Homeland security departments involved in decision-making.
Democratic lawmakers blasted the administration for not fulfilling its responsibility.
New York spokeswoman Gerald Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and California spokesman Joe Lofgren, chairman of the California Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, said in a statement that if Trump violates the 1980 law, “our refugee entry program will be suspended and thousands of people trapped abroad will risk their lives.”
Trump has frozen admissions this year, citing the need to protect American jobs as the economy collapses from the coronavirus pandemic. Lawyers fear the government is deliberately delaying the 2021 fiscal year as a way to eventually eliminate the refugee program.
Sunil Varghese, director of policy for the International Refugee Assistance Project, called on Trump to announce the numbers during a press conference on Tuesday, saying the U.S. refugee enrollment program was “virtually stalled, and now we have a legitimate need to consult with the Congress” as the president awaits his fulfillment and argues.
Most refugees will not be admitted after Thursday until the president decides the ceiling for the new year.
“We are concerned that the administration will delay this announcement indefinitely,” said Jacinta Ma of the National Immigration Forum, a legal group.
Secretary of State Mike Pompey said the administration was committed to the country’s history of leading the world in providing a safe haven for refugees.
“We continue to be the sole great contributor to the relief of the humanitarian crisis around the world, and we will continue to do so,” Pompey told reporters in Rome during a conference on religious freedom organized by the US Embassy. “As long as President Trump is in office, I can assure you that this administration is deeply committed to it.”
But prosecutors said government actions did not show it. Since Trump took office, the number of refugees allowed into the country has been reduced by more than 80 percent, reflecting his extensive efforts to drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration.
Before the State Department halted the program due to the coronavirus, the U.S. allowed more than 10,800 refugees in 2020, more than half of the 18,000 caps prescribed by Trump.
The 18,000 cap is already the lowest in the history of the show. In addition, the State Department announced last week that it would no longer provide some statistical information on the resettlement of refugees, which created further concerns.
Many resettlement offices have been closed due to a decline in federal funding, which is tied to the number of refugees being held in the US.