Trump Virtually Cuts Off Refugees as He Unleashes a Tirade on Immigrants

The Trump administration said it would lower the annual cap on refugees further into rock-bottom record territory as President Trump pursues pre-election xenophobic attacks.

The Trump administration said it would cut its already rock-bottom refugee admissions still deeper into record territory for the upcoming year, as President Trump returned to his anti-immigrant themes in the closing month of his re-election campaign.

The change in the number of refugees that Mr. Trump plans to admit is not drastic: no more than 15,000 in the fiscal year that began Thursday, down from 18,000 in the 2020 fiscal year, which was a record low. The number was set in a notice sent to Congress late Wednesday, shortly before the statutory deadline to set the new limit.

Both numbers are slivers of the 110,000 slots that President Barack Obama approved in 2016. The big cut in 2020 virtually sealed off a pathway for the persecuted into the country and obliterated the once-robust American reputation as a sanctuary for the oppressed.

But the cut signaled that Mr. Trump is willing to take his exclusionary immigration policies still further, and it was delivered to Congress as the president was unleashing a xenophobic tirade against one of the nation’s most prominent refugees, Representative Ilhan Omar, on Wednesday night at a rally in her home state, Minnesota.

In the notification sent to Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Trump also proposed not admitting refugees from Somalia, Syria and Yemen, the origins of many in recent years, with exceptions for “those who have been persecuted or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of religion.” The administration cited security concerns within the region, even though refugees are not approved to come to the United States until they clear extensive security screenings.

By law, the president must tell Congress at the end of September the maximum number of refugees that will be allowed entry into the United States for the following year. Mr. Trump and the architect of his immigration policies, Stephen Miller, have used that power as part of their overall assault on the nation’s legal immigration system.

But the president and his political advisers also believe that the largely successful effort to seal off the country from asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, war and violence is a winning campaign issue, helping to bolster the president’s standing among his core supporters just before the election on Nov. 3.

His campaign also warns voters that refugees will take their jobs and cost the government money, a charge that has been refuted in many studies.

In Ms. Omar, Mr. Trump seems to believe he has found the prime target of that strategy.

“She tells us how to run our country, can you believe it?” he thundered at his rally in Duluth, Minn. “How the hell did Minnesota elect her? What the hell is wrong with you people — right? What the hell happened?”

And he has tried to link her liberal politics to his opponent, Mr. Biden, who has said he would reset the refugee cap at 125,000 if elected.

“Another massive issue for Minnesota is the election of Joe Biden’s plan to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees,” the president said.

“Seven hundred percent increase, refugees, coming from the most dangerous places in the world, including Yemen, Syria and your favorite country, Somalia, right?” Mr. Trump said later, to a chorus of boos in a state that has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. Minneapolis is home to about 57,000 people of Somali descent.

“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp,” Mr. Trump said.

The 15,000 cap is the latest step in one of the central aims for Mr. Trump during his first term: to close the United States to immigrants. The broad effort has included restricting travel from African and Muslim-majority countries and sealing the land borders of the United States to migrants fleeing persecution, even as the United Nations reported this year that nearly 80 million people have been displaced by oppression and war.

The cap, which administration officials at one point considered setting to zero, may actually overstate how many refugees will be allowed to resettle in the United States. Though this year’s cap was 18,000, the administration welcomed fewer than 11,000 refugees as of Sept. 25, leaving thousands stranded in camps around the world.

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Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Michael D. Shear