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US Refugee Arrivals Keep Dropping, Set Another Record


FILE - Nadia Hanan Madalo, center, and her family — refugees forced to flee their town of Batnaya, Iraq, after the Islamic State invaded and destroyed it several years ago — arrived in San Diego, California, March 15, 2017.

For the second consecutive month, the number of refugees coming to the United States dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade.

State Department data shows 910 refugees arrived in August, compared to an average of 6,955 for that month in the preceding 10 years.

A month earlier, July set the previous decade-low arrivals level, with 1,224 refugees admitted.

This time last year, the U.S. refugee program looked dramatically different. As the country ramped up efforts to resettle displaced Syrians, the program last August set the opposite record — the most refugees resettled in a month since 2007: 13,255.

But two executive orders by President Donald Trump, and the ensuing legal challenges, have curbed the program's original cap for the fiscal year.

Then-President Barack Obama set the ceiling for 2016-2017 at 110,000. Trump vowed to reduce that to 50,000, and he largely succeeded — as of Aug. 31, 51,392 refugees have come to the United States since last October.

The majority of those arrivals happened before Trump took office in January.

In recent months, a provisional decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in response to one lawsuit limited refugee arrivals to those with close family ties to the United States. The high court will hear the full case in October.

The government on Thursday reached a settlement in one lawsuit against the first of Trump's travel bans, based on a January executive order that affected all refugees and travelers from seven countries. Federal officials committed to contacting those travelers who were affected by the original ban and provide a list of free legal services organizations.

It is unclear how the settlement will affect refugees; the State Department did not immediately respond to a request from VOA for comment.

As in previous years, the president is expected to set the "ceiling" for refugee arrivals in September, which allows the government agencies and nonprofit organizations involved in refugee resettlement to plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

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