The Trump Administration Set a Record-Low Refugee Cap. Now It’s Falling Far Short of It.

The United States is on track to let in only half the refugees allowed under Trump’s cap.

Refugees arrive in Greece last month. The Trump administration has slashed the number of refugees the United States will accept.Angelos Tzortzinis/ZUMA

In September, President Donald Trump cut the annual limit on the number of refugees who can come to the United States from 110,000 to 45,000—the lowest level on record. But as Mother Jones reported last month, refugee advocates believe it’s highly unlikely that the Trump administration will even reach that number, due to other restrictive policies that make it hard for refugees to gain entry to the country.

Now their concerns are backed up by data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, showing that 1,860 refugees came to the United States last month. That is about half the rate needed to hit the 45,000-person cap. The Obama administration admitted admitted nearly 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, and 8,355 came to the country last November. 

Kay Bellor, a vice president at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, says the country is “absolutely not” on track to hit the cap. Melanie Nezer, a senior vice president at HIAS, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees, says HIAS is “very concerned” about the numbers. She believes there is time to catch up, but doing so requires a “real commitment” by the White House that has yet to be seen.  

The religious composition of refugees coming to the United States has also changed since Trump took office. In October, the Trump administration effectively banned most refugees from 11 countries for the next 90 days. Nine of those 11 are majority-Muslim nations.

Last November, 40 percent of refugees coming to the United States were Muslim, compared to just 10 percent last month. Nezer says the low percentage of Muslims refugees is “troubling but not surprising” in light of the president’s clear intent “to keep refugees out of the US based on their belonging to a religion that he does not like.”


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