The low number for 2021 is a reduction from the 18,000 person ceiling set for the fiscal year 2020 and comes as President Donald Trump seeks to turn refugees into a political issue to help his re-election bid.
The number of refugees actually allowed into the United States is usually lower than the established ceiling, with only 11,000 entering the country in 2020, also a record low, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Immigrants in the United States Have Always Been Essential
While the State Department cited the coronavirus pandemic as the primary reason for the reduction in refugee admissions, the Trump administration has adopted a wide array of policies to prevent and discourage immigration to and resettlement in the United States, leading to a sharp reduction in the number of refugees admitted. In comparison, during the last year of the Obama administration in 2016, 85,000 refugees were admitted, over 100,000 were admitted annually throughout the 1980s and 90s.
Meanwhile, the number of refugees worldwide has grown dramatically due to ongoing conflicts, persecution, and climate change, with over 80 million people being forced from their homes in the past ten years, according to the United Nations and other agencies.
Gregory Maniatis, of the Open Society's International Migration Initiative, said in a tweet that Trump had promoted "anti-refugee hysteria," whereas Democrat Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement: "The administration's violations will bring our refugee program to a halt, leaving thousands stranded abroad with their lives at risk. This time, refugees—including many who served alongside our troops—will be the victims of the Trump administration's lawless approach."
Trying to instill fear into his voters by claiming that Joe Biden would open U.S. borders to refugees and asylum seekers, the Trump campaign had a 15-second advertisement removed by Facebook Wednesday that tried to link refugees' admission to increased coronavirus infections without any factual basis whatsoever.
At a campaign rally Wednesday in the vital swing state of Minnesota—home to the largest Somali population in the United States and to the Somali-American Congresswoman who came to the United States as a child under asylum, Ilhan Omar—Trump claimed that Biden would turn Minnesota into a refugee camp, receiving both boos from his supporters and chants of "lock her up, lock her up," directed at the democratically elected and law-abiding Omar.