Refugee admissions for fiscal year 2018 have gotten off to a slow start, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal Sunday morning.
So far, the Trump administration has accepted just over 5,000 refugees during the first three months of the fiscal year, which started on October 1.
President Trump reduced the ceiling on admissions to just 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, the lowest it has ever been since the program was enacted in 1980, and unless the pace picks up, that ceiling will not even be reached, the WSJ reported.
Tougher screening and bringing admissions to almost a complete halt from certain parts of the word which had previously generated a large number of the refugees has caused the numbers to drop drastically. The 11 countries from which refugee admissions have been nearly all suspended include Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
Now the US is only allowing people in from these countries who can show their arrival would be in the best national interest of the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal report notes that the 11 targeted countries are the ones which are widely known for being associated with terrorism. Under the Obama administration, these 11 countries accounted for over 40 percent of refugee admissions – the Trump administration has knocked that down to just 5 percent.
In addition, for a 90-day period, the administration blocked admission for most refugees from 11 targeted countries. Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Syria account for the bulk of refugees in this group, but Egypt, Libya, Mali, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen were also on the list. Together, those 11 countries have accounted for 40% or more of refugee admissions in recent years.
The list is the same set of countries that currently trigger higher security screenings called Security Advisory Opinions. The list isn’t public, but the names of the countries were confirmed by an administration official and another person outside government.
During the first three months of this fiscal year, people from these countries made up 5% of the 5,323 people admitted to the U.S. as refugees. In announcing the 90-day review, officials said refugees from other countries would be given priority.
At the same time, the government is working to more thoroughly screen refugee applicants. Officials say they are collecting more biographical data about all applicants, such as names of family members and places of employment, and doing more to mine social-media posts.
Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and an Obama holder, lamented, “It’s enormously discouraging and dispiriting, and it is another reflection of this administration’s march away from the principal of humanity.”
The changes are producing a shift in the religious makeup of incoming refugees. In recent years, those who identify as Muslims have made up more than 40% of all admitted refugees. Muslims comprised 14% of the total during the first three months of this fiscal year. The proportion of Christians and, to a lesser extent, Buddhists and Hindus, has risen, the Journal review found.
Critics say those figures bolster their argument that Mr. Trump’s aim is to ban entry to foreign Muslims, a promise he made when running for president. That argument has been at the core of a series of lawsuits challenging both the refugee policies and a ban on travel to the U.S. by nationals of targeted nations, several of which are still being litigated.
The White House denies that refugee or other immigration policies are driven by religious affiliation and say the goal is to safeguard against possible entry by terrorists.