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September Could See Fewest Refugee Arrivals Yet; Smallest Proportion Of Muslims

( – With the Trump administration just days away from reporting to Congress on its planned refugee admission plans for FY 2018, the last month of the closing fiscal year could see the smallest monthly refugee intake yet – and the smallest proportion of Muslims among them.

With four working days of the month – and FY 2017 – to go, 890 refugees have been admitted so far in September, pushing to 52,282 the total for the fiscal year.

Of the 890 newcomers, 480 (53.9 percent) are Christians and 171 (19.2 percent) are Muslims.

If the pattern holds for the next four days, September also will be the first time the number of refugees from religions other than Christianity or Islam overtake the number of Muslims.

As of Monday, 239 of the 890 refugees arriving in September (26.8 percent) were neither Muslims nor Christians. They comprised 131 Buddhists, 52 Hindus and 56 followers of the Kirat faith, a Himalayan and South Asian religion incorporating nature and ancestor worship.

Although refugee application processing can take 18-24 months, the period since Trump’s inauguration has seen a marked shift in the ratio of Muslims to Christians among refugees resettled in the U.S.

In February the ratio was 50 percent Muslim/41 percent Christian. By August that had changed to 34 percent Muslim/62 percent Christian, and so far this month it stands at 19 percent Muslim/54 percent Christian.

(Graph: / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)

Among the largest denominational groups represented among the September arrivals were 95 Pentecostalists (from Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and 73 Sunni Muslims (including 43 Iraqis and 24 Somalis.)

In contrast to September’s 890 arrivals, the same 25-day period one year ago saw the Obama administration resettle 11,370 refugees, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

Since the start of the Trump administration, the smallest monthly intake of refugees was in August, when 913 arrived, and the largest was in February, when 4,580 were resettled. (January arrivals totaled 6,777, but 4,451 of those arrived before President Obama left office.)

Of the 52,282 refugees to have arrived since the start of FY 2017, 30,122 arrived during the closing three-plus months of the Obama administration, and 22,160 during the first eight months of the Trump administration.

Ceilings rise and fall

The Trump administration has a few days remaining to meets a legislative obligation to report to Congress on its refugee admission plans for FY 2018.

The Immigration and Nationality Act requires the president to submit a report to the House and Senate Judiciary committees before the start of each fiscal year on the “foreseeable number of refugees” needing resettlement and the “anticipated allocation of refugee admissions.” It also says this should, “to the extent possible,” occur at least two weeks before “appropriate consultation” on the subject takes place.

On Monday, Axios reported that Trump is expected to set a cap of around 40,000 admissions for the new fiscal year, and that the issue has generated significant debate within the administration. The report said the State Department has recommended a ceiling of 45,000, the Department of Homeland Security a slightly smaller number, and White House policy advisor Stephen Miller a cap of 20,000.

(Graph: / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)

A cap of 40,000 would be considerably lower than any set by previous administrations since President Carter signed the Refugee Act into law in 1980.

Over those 37 years the lowest cap set was 67,000, by the Reagan administration for FY 1986.

President George H.W. Bush set refugee admission ceilings ranging from a low of 125,000 for FY 1990 to a high of 142,000 for FY 1993.

President Reagan’s admission caps ranged from the FY 1986 low of 67,000 to a high of 140,000 for FY 1982.

President Clinton’s lowest cap was 78,000 for FY 1997 and his highest was 121,000 for FY 1994.

President George W. Bush set ceilings of 70,000 refugees for each year from FY 2002-2007, although over the years following the al-Qaeda 9/11 terror attacks, actual admissions were far below that annual cap, fluctuating between a low of 27,131 in FY 2002 and a high of 53,813 in FY 2005.

Bush lifted the cap to 80,000 in FY 2008 (when actual admissions rose to 60,191) and then held it at 80,000 for FY 2009.

President Obama began his presidency maintaining the 80,000 ceiling for FY 2010-2011, before dropping it to 76,000 for FY 2012 and then cutting it further to 70,000 for FY 2013-2015.

For FY 2016, Obama moved the ceiling up to 85,000 (and admitted just six refugees below that number). Last fall, he informed Congress that he was setting a ceiling of 110,000 refugee admissions for FY 2017 – the highest cap set since Clinton’s 112,000 in FY 1995.

In his travel executive orders earlier this year, however, Trump limited FY 2017 refugee admissions to 50,000.

That restriction has been exceeded because the Supreme Court ruled that the administration may not exclude refugee applicants who have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” – even if that means the 50,000 cap is overtaken.

(First reported by CNS News)   (September 26, 2017)

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