Donald Trump expected to set U.S. refugee cap at just 45,000

Donald Trump speaks at a press conference at the White House Rose Garden. Patsy Lynch/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration plans to cap the number of refugees admitted to the United States in the coming year at 45,000, two people with knowledge of the decision said on Tuesday, and advocates said this historically low level is insufficient in the face of growing humanitarian crises worldwide.

That figure would be the lowest ceiling for refugee admissions since the U.S. Refugee Act was signed in 1980. Since then, the ceiling has never been set below 67,000 and in recent years has been around 70,000 to 80,000.

READ MORE: Here’s what to know about Donald Trump’s newest travel ban

The secretaries of State and Homeland Security are consulting with members of Congress on Wednesday, according to one White House official. The president’s decision on the refugee limit will be announced following that consultation, two officials said. The Wall Street Journal first reported the 45,000 figure on Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Democratic congressmen arrested at Trump Tower immigration protest

Click to play video: 'Democratic congressmen arrested at Trump Tower immigration protest'
Democratic congressmen arrested at Trump Tower immigration protest

By law, the president is required to consult with members of Congress about the number of refugee admissions before the start of each fiscal year, on Oct. 1.

The number of refugees actually admitted to the country, which can fall below the cap, dropped to its lowest in the fiscal year after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks with only around 27,000 admitted.

For fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30, former President Barack Obama established a cap of 110,000 refugees for permanent resettlement in the United States.

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s New York childhood home is being used by refugees to tell their stories

Click to play video: 'Refugees stay in Trump childhood home'
Refugees stay in Trump childhood home

After taking office in January, President Donald Trump issued an executive order lowering the maximum number to 50,000 for 2017, saying that more would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Story continues below advertisement

Critics said if the 2018 level is set even lower, it could damage the international reputation of the United States.

“It’s tragic,” said Robert Carey, former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Obama. “It’s really moving away from the commitments the government has had for protections of refugees from both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said. “Some people will die.”

In a speech to the United Nations last week, Trump said that more could be done to help refugees in their home regions. Offering financial assistance to hosting countries “is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach,” Trump said.

But that type of assistance “ignores all the people who have fled to places that are still not safe,” said another former Obama administration official, Anne Richard.

WATCH: Will Trump’s immigration policy push have an effect on Canada?

Click to play video: 'Will Trump’s immigration policy push have an effect on Canada?'
Will Trump’s immigration policy push have an effect on Canada?

“Those are the people that the U.S. program really rescues,” said Richard, a former assistant secretary for refugees and migration at the State Department.

Story continues below advertisement

She said other countries might try to follow suit by closing the door to more refugees

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s new travel ban targets 8 countries, including North Korea, Venezuela and Syria

A September 2016 study by the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute found that of 3.3 million refugees admitted to the United States between 1975 through 2015, 20 were convicted of planning or committing a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment ahead of Trump’s final decision on the cap. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

David Inserra from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation said Congress should have more of a say in setting the cap to avoid radical swings in the numbers when there is a change in administrations.

“When president Obama increased the number dramatically Republicans said they didn’t want that but the consultation process didn’t give them any authority to stop it,” he said. “Now the same is going to be true for the other side.”

Sponsored content