President Donald Trump's administration has once again set the lowest cap on refugee admissions in the program's nearly 40 year history, allowing less than 20,000 resettlements.
The administration will only propose resettlements for 18,000 of the 368,000 asylum and refugee applications it expects to field in the upcoming fiscal year, the U.S. Department of State said in a Thursday press release. The proposed number is a a fraction of the 85,000 cap proposed by former president Barack Obama in 2016.
Trump's administration said it was focusing on "assisting refugees where they are concentrated" and cited the drain on American resources caused by illegal immigration.
"Indeed, it would be irresponsible for the United States to go abroad seeking large numbers of refugees to resettle when the humanitarian and security crisis along the southern border already imposes an extraordinary burden on the U.S. immigration system," the State Department said in its release.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan also said that the proposed cap for the 2020 fiscal year would allow the department to address "the ongoing crisis at the southern border."
The Pentagon announced earlier this month itwould use $3.6 billion in military construction funding to pay for Trump's long-promised wall at the southern border. Half of the money that was promised for the wall would come from planned international projects.
Trump's administration already dramatically cut the cap for the 2019 fiscal year to 30,000, which was the lowest at that point in time.
Jewish refugee advocacy group Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society said in a statement Trump was "playing to fear rather than showing strength."
"Refugee resettlement assures that at least some of those forced to flee their homes have a safe and legal pathway to refuge in the United States," HIAS chief executive Mark Hetfield. "This administration has once again brought our country to a new low, by pledging to resettle fewer refugees than any other administration in history."