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Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde October 5, 2018

Donald Trump sets refugee admission limit at 30,000 for fiscal year 2019

President Donald Trump's administration will admit no more than 30,000 refugees during the 2019 fiscal year.

The 30,000-refugee cap is the lowest set since the country standardized resettlement services and programs through the Refugee Act of 1980. Refugee admission limits are set by the president after consultation with Congress.

Trump's 30,000-person ceiling is a drop from the 45,000-person cap he set for 2018 and is in line with his campaign promise to limit legal immigration to the United States. Trump's decision to cut down on the number of people let into the United States reflects his "America First" agenda and his administration's concerns for the safety of Americans.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sept. 17 said the 2019 limit was a sign of the administration's "commitment to protect the most vulnerable around the world while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the American people, as President Trump has directed."

"We must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent the entry of those who might do harm to our country," Pompeo said.

In 2018, the United States took in 22,491 refugees — even though the limit was 45,000.

Aside from setting an overall limit for refugee admissions, the United States sets a cap per region. Here's a breakdown for 2019:

• Africa: 11,000

• East Asia: 4,000

• Europe and Central Asia: 3,000

• Latin America/Caribbean: 3,000

• Near East/South Asia: 9,000

Trump is exploring other ways to cut down on legal immigration, including the elimination of the diversity visa program. But so far, he has consistently slashed down the number of refugees to be allowed into the country.

Given his executive actions on this matter, we are moving this promise to Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde September 28, 2017

President Donald Trump reduces refugee cap to 45,000 for fiscal year 2018

President Donald Trump plans to admit no more than 45,000 refugees from around the world in fiscal year 2018, a significant drop from the cap of 110,000 set for 2017 by predecessor Barack Obama.

The president, in consultation with Congress, determines the maximum number of refugees admitted into the United States per fiscal year. The 2018 year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2018.

Here's the regional breakdown for top admissions in 2018:

• 19,000 from Africa

• 5,000 from East Asia

• 2,000 from Europe and Central Asia

• 1,500 from Latin America and the Caribbean

• 17,500 from Near East and South Asia

A ceiling of 45,000 refugees "is consistent with our foreign policy goals and operational capacity in light of additional security vetting procedures that we are implementing, as well as the domestic asylum backlogs that (Department of Homeland Security) is currently facing," a U.S. government official told reporters on Sept. 27.

The Trump administration is currently reviewing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and has started strengthening the refugee vetting process, officials said.

Reducing the number of refugees allowed in the country per year is one way to limit legal immigration. Refugees are admitted under a refugee status and must apply for lawful permanent residence one year after their arrival.

Trump earlier this year expressed support for an immigration bill from Republican senators to limit to 50,000 the number of refugees admitted per fiscal year.

Trump has also said via executive orders that the admission of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States." At least 53,605 refugees have arrived in the United States as of Sept. 28, according to data from the State Department's Refugee Processing Center.

A refugee cap of 45,000 for fiscal year 2018 is nearly a 60 percent decline from the 2017 ceiling. This reduction is in line with Trump's promise to limit legal immigration.

We'll continue to monitor future refugee caps and other immigration measures seeking to restrict legal immigration. For now, we continue to rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde August 2, 2017

Trump, Republican senators present bill to reform legal immigration

President Donald Trump and two Republican senators presented new legislation to shift legal immigration into the United States from a system favoring family reunification to one based on skills and merit.

"As a candidate, I campaigned on creating a merit-based immigration system that protects U.S. workers and taxpayers. And that is why we are here today, merit-based," Trump said Aug. 2.

The bill, called the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, seeks to:

• Create a skills-based points system to evaluate admission to the United States. Points would be awarded based on education, ability to speak English, offers for high-paying jobs, age, "record of extraordinary achievement, and entrepreneurial initiative;"

• Keep family reunification for spouses and minor children, but eliminate preference for extended family and grown adult family members of U.S. residents. A renewable temporary visa would be available for elderly parents of U.S. citizens;

• Get rid of the Diversity Visa Lottery. The lottery allocates a limited number of visas each fiscal year to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States, and;

• Cap at 50,000 per year the number of refugees offered permanent residency. (Trump's Jan. 27 executive order limited refugee admissions to 50,000 in fiscal year 2017. The president, after consultation with Congress, determines the annual number of refugees admitted per year.)

The proposed bill from Republican Sens.Tom Cotton, R-Ark. and David Perdue, R-Ga., is an updated version of a similar bill they introduced in February.

"Crucially, the green card reforms in the RAISE Act will give American workers a pay raise by reducing unskilled immigration," Trump said.

The senators argued the current immigration system is outdated and does not work for the American people. "It keeps America from being competitive and it does not meet the needs of our economy today," Perdue said.

Trump won the presidential election on promises to reform and enforce immigration laws. His public support for the senators' bill is in line with his pledge to limit legal immigration. Until the bill or similar legislation becomes law, we continue to rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde March 7, 2017

Trump meets with lawmakers to discuss changes to legal immigration

President Donald Trump is moving forward on plans to restrict the number of people who legally come to the United States.

Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, said at a press briefing March 7 that Trump was meeting with lawmakers regarding changes to the immigration system.

"At this moment, the president is leading a discussion on immigration with Sen. (Tom) Cotton and Sen. (David) Perdue and members of the White House senior staff," Spicer said. "The president and the senators were expected to discuss the merit-based immigration reforms that the president mentioned at last week's joint address."

The Republican senators, Cotton from Arkansas and Perdue from Georgia, last month introduced legislation to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. The senators propose reducing the number of family-sponsored immigrants; the creation of a new nonimmigrant classification for parents of adult U.S. citizens; limits to the president's discretion in number of refugees to be admitted per year (capping it to 50,000 a year), and the elimination of the diversity visa program. The program grants a limited number of visas per fiscal year to to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act seeks to reposition legal immigration toward employment-based visas and immediate family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Cotton has said that of 1 million green cards issued a year, few are employment-based. We've found that to be Mostly True, as most are granted for family reunification.

The RAISE Act would lower overall legal immigration to about 638,000 individuals in the first year (from the current level of about 1 million a year) and to about 540,000 by its tenth year, Cotton said in a Feb. 7 press release.

Trump in his first speech before a joint session of Congress again set forth his vision to bring jobs back to Americans -- and said that will partly be achieved through changes to the immigration system.

"Protecting our workers also means reforming our system of legal immigration. The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers," Trump said Feb. 28.

"It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon," Trump said. "Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits. It will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families -- including immigrant families -- enter the middle class."

Trump promised to limit legal immigration and has met with lawmakers who seek those changes in the immigration system. We rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde January 16, 2017

Moving from family to jobs orientation

When it comes to immigration, illegal movement isn't Donald Trump's only concern. He also wants legal immigration re-examined.

Trump said he'd welcome immigrants but would be selective in who's allowed into the United States, making sure they're vetted and come to contribute to the country.

"We will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. Workers. We're going to take care of our workers," Trump said in his 10-point immigration plan outlined in Phoenix in the summer of 2016.


Controlling future immigration, Trump said, is needed to "ensure assimilation, integration and upward mobility."

Immigrants as a share of the national population are on the rise and set to break records, Trump claimed.

"We've been living under outdated immigration rules from decades ago. To avoid this happening in the future, I believe we should sunset our visa laws so that Congress is forced to periodically revise and revisit them," Trump said Aug. 31, 2016.


Trump proposed a new immigration commission that would create reforms to achieve four goals:

  • Keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms (Trump did not specify his benchmark for historical norms, but some have estimated that the foreign-born share since 1850 on average has accounted for 10 percent of the U.S. population);

  • Select immigrants based on their prospects to be "financially self-sufficient" and on their chances of success in American society;

  • Select immigrants depending on their merit, skill and proficiency; and,

  • Set new "immigration controls" to increase wages and to make sure available jobs are first made available to Americans.


Congress sets rules regarding immigration, and legal immigration currently isn't as open as Trump may suggest. It's already limited qualitatively and quantitatively, said Stephen Legomsky, professor emeritus at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and a former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"Qualitatively, one may not legally immigrate unless, first, the person fits within one of the specific immigration categories established by Congress," Legomsky said.

Lawful permanent admission into the United States falls into four main categories: family reunification; people with desired, needed occupational skills; refugee protection; and country-of-origin diversity, noted a February 2016 Congressional Research Service report.

With a few exceptions, the law caps the number of people allowed annually under each of the qualifying categories and on the amount of people admitted from any one country, Legomsky said.

"Those caps have generated long waiting periods (typically several years) for most of the qualifying categories," Legomsky said.


Trump's goal of limiting legal immigration depends on support and swift action from Congress. Trump will take office with a Republican-led Congress, which may facilitate the keeping of this promise.

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