The U.S. will slash the number of refugees it will accept for a second straight year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday, insisting amid criticism from human rights groups that the country is still committed to providing sanctuary to people fleeing the world’s danger zones.
Up to 30,000 refugees will be allowed into the country next year, down from a cap of 45,000 this year. It will be the lowest ceiling on admissions since the program began in 1980. The announcement comes despite calls from global humanitarian groups that this year’s cap of 45,000 was too low.
Pompeo sought to head off potential criticism of the reduction by noting that the U.S. would process more than 280,000 asylum claims in addition to more than 800,000 already inside the country who are awaiting a resolution of their claims.
“These expansive figures continue the United States’ long-standing record as the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration and assistance,” he said.
The 30,000 cap is the maximum number of refugees the U.S. will admit during the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The actual number allowed in could be lower. So far this year, the U.S. has only admitted 20,918 refugees for the fiscal year set to end in two weeks, according to State Department records.