Accessibility links

Breaking News

Trump Administration Misses Refugee Admissions Deadline


FILE - A man exits the transit area after clearing immigration and customs on arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, Sept. 24, 2017.

The Trump administration has missed the end-of-fiscal-year deadline to set the maximum number of refugees that will be allowed in the United States in the next 12 months.

"Consultations and the subsequent Presidential Determination (PD) normally take place by Oct. 1. However, on some occasions, the consultations and subsequent PD have been completed later," a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement to VOA. "We do not expect this will have any operational impact on the Refugee Admissions Program."

The agency declined a request from VOA to provide a timeline for the consultations.

Emails to the offices of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is involved in the consultative process for refugee issues, were not immediately returned Monday.

The leaders from both parties on the committee were unified in an August letter to administration officials requesting the required meetings and were critical in recent weeks that the request had not yet been honored.

Last month, the administration proposed a record-low refugee ceiling for the 2019 fiscal year of 30,000 refugees. By law, Congress must be consulted about the cap before a final number can be issued.

“We are extraordinarily disappointed that the administration has failed to honor the spirit and the letter of the law when it comes to consultations,” said Mary Giovagnoli. executive director of Refugee Council USA. “For two years in a row now, the administration has just failed to take it seriously.”

President Donald Trump has dramatically cut refugee arrivals to the United States since taking office.

From Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018, State Department data show 22,491 refugees came to the country, well below the ceiling of 45,000 that Trump established last year. That was a significant decrease over the previous administration, which during President Barack Obama's final year in the White House resettled about 85,000 refugees.

Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said at a conference Monday that new vetting measures have increased processing times for refugee admissions.

He added that the suggested ceiling of 30,000 for FY2019 takes into account the "operational realities" of those measures for "national security and public safety.”

“The number is not final yet. The president has not signed the proclamation. Whatever that number is, it will absolutely be driven principally by the capacity of my agency and the law enforcement, security, and vetting practices,” Cissna said.

VOA Immigration Reporter Aline Barros contributed to this report from Washington.