President Trump on Friday set a cap for the U.S. to accept just 18,000 refugees this fiscal year, marking the lowest number since the modern refugee system was created nearly 40 years ago.
The president also announced major changes to the way the refugee program runs, creating a set-aside of 5,000 slots for refugees fleeing religious persecution, 4,000 for Iraqis and 1,500 for key Central American partner countries. Those all count against the 18,000 cap.
The number, which the administration had signaled in late September but was made official by Trump’s determination, has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, who said the U.S. has an obligation to accept more refugees.
Administration officials, though, argue that the U.S. already has a massive asylum backlog that it needs to work through. Refugees are those who are awarded humanitarian protections while they are outside the U.S. Asylees are those who make it to U.S. soil and then request protection from their home countries.