Nine hundred and ten refugees were resettled in the United States during the month of August, the lowest monthly total since October 2002, when only 421 refugees were resettled.
During the first eleven months of FY 2017, a total of 51,389 refugees have been resettled, according to the State Department interactive website as of 8:00 a.m. eastern time on September 1. If the number of refugees resettled in September is similar to the number resettled in August, FY 2017 will close out with less than 53,000 refugees resettled in the country, the lowest total since FY 2007 in the George W. Bush administration when 48,282 refugees were resettled.
Only 24 percent of the refugees resettled in August, or 217 out of 910, were Muslim, significantly less than the 46 percent of refugees resettled in the first seven months of FY 2017 who were Muslim.
In FY 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration, that same percentage of refugees--46 percent, or 39,098 out of 84,995– were Muslim.
In FY 2008, the last full year of the George W. Bush administration, 23 percent of resettled refugees were Muslim.
In addition, only 184 of the 910 refugees that were resettled in the United States in August came from the six countries whose residents were temporarily banned from travelling to the United States under President Trump’s Executive Order 13780, which he signed on March 6 and has been at the center of contentious litigation in Hawaii and Maryland and is now scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court this fall.
That same order temporarily halted the entire refugee resettlement program and set a limit on the number of refugees who could be resettled in the United States in FY 2017 at 50,000.
On March 15, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order in Hawaii v. Trump halting both these components of that executive order, which was partially overturned by the Supreme Court in its unanimous June 26 decision.
In July, “The Supreme Court gave the Trump administration a partial victory on Wednesday, permitting it to enforce the temporary refugee ban announced in Executive Order 13780,” as Breitbart News reported, after Judge Watson issued another temporary injunction subsequent to the June Supreme Court ruling.
As for refugee arrivals in August from those six countries–none arrived from Yemen or Libya, while 68 arrived from Iran, 53 from Somalia, 48 from Syria, and 15 from Sudan.
The huge drop in the number of refugees resettled in the United States under the Trump administration–especially during the most recent two months–comes after a series of contentious legal battles between the Trump administration and the voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) who are paid more than $1 billion each year by the federal government to resettle refugees.
Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president makes a presidential determination of the ceiling number of refugees to be resettled in the United States in September for the following fiscal year that begins the next month, in October.
The actual number of refugees resettled that following fiscal year is determined in a back and forth interaction between Congressional leaders in the budgeting process and the president’s ceiling number determination. In almost every fiscal year since 1980, the number of refugees resettled through Congressional budget authorizations is either less than or equal to the presidential determination.
The president can make a ceiling determination, but it is Congress who appropriates the funds to resettle refugees.
In September 2016, President Obama made a controversial presidential determination that the ceiling for refugee resettlement in the United States for FY 2017 would be 110,000–a 29 percent increase from the ceiling of 85,000 he had set for the prior fiscal year (when Congress appropriated funds to resettle refugees at that ceiling).
But Congress was unable to come to an agreement on the budget for FY 2017 prior to the November 2016 election. In such cases, the “ceiling” reverts to the prior fiscal year, in this case 85,000, though without funding the administration is not required to resettle refugees at the ceiling number.
Indeed, the number of refugees to be resettled in FY 2017 became a significant issue in the election between President Trump and Hillary Clinton that fall.
Hillary Clinton was on the record stating we should increase the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the country by 550 percent, from 10,000 proposed for FY 2016 to 65,000 annually. She also signaled that under a Hillary Clinton administration, the annual refugee ceiling would be increased above 110,000–up to as much as 200,000.
Then-candidate Trump, in contrast, promised a “A Trump administration will not admit any refugees without the support of the local community where they are being placed.”
“When I’m elected president, we will suspend the Syrian refugee program and we will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” he said.
“And we will pause admissions from terror-prone regions until a full security assessment has been performed, and until a proven vetting mechanism has been established,” Trump added.
Trump did not specifically promise to reduce the total number of refugees resettled in the country if elected, but he made it clear that he would not increase that total number, a policy that voters embraced.
“Fifty-nine percent of likely voters disapprove of Hillary Clinton’s plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees coming into the United States from 10,000 this year to 65,000 annually,” a Breitbart/Gravis Marketing poll conducted in September 2016 found:
Only 25 percent of likely voters approve of her plan, while 15 percent are unsure.
Opposition to Clinton’s plan to increase Syrian refugees is slightly greater than opposition to President Obama’s proposal to increase the number of refugees coming into the United States by 29 percent next year to 110,000, up from 85,000 this year, a policy that Clinton also supports.
Fifty-six percent of likely voters oppose this increase in refugees.
The low number of refugee arrivals in August sets the stage for a big announcement next month when President Trump makes his presidential determination of the number of refugees he recommends be resettled in the United States in FY 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017.
Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch, a vocal critic of the federal refugee resettlement program, says President Trump should suspend the refugee resettlement program completely for all of FY 2018.
“If you are getting tired of hearing me on this subject, be prepared for more weariness because I plan to talk about it until that date in about mid-September when the President sends his State Department-crafted fiscal year ‘determination’ to the Hill for ‘consultation’ with Congress,” Corcoran wrote on Monday:
This year is a bit different, however, because the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program is under review at the Supreme Court and they surely won’t be reviewing and deciding by the first of October when the new batch of refugees would begin to arrive. The Court’s first day is October 2.
Trump would have every legal right to simply suspend or hold off sending any “determination” in advance of the Court ruling.
In less than thirty days, President Trump will announce his presidential determination of the refugee ceiling for FY 2018, and that number will clearly indicate the degree to which he intends to follow through on his campaign promises.