The United States resettled 3,316 refugees from foreign countries last month, an increase over March but still far less than the 8,112 monthly average for the first four months of the fiscal year, according to statistics released Friday.
What’s more, April continued a long downward trend in resettlements from war-torn Syria. From October through January, an average of 1,221 Syrians came each month. In February, President Donald Trump’s first full month in office, the United States accepted 673 Syrian refugees. That number dropped to 282 in March and 226 in April.
“I think the president might be doing more ‘extreme vetting’ than what was done before.”
Trump tried to freeze the refugee programs altogether for several months to give the government time to review procedures used to scrutinize refugees for possible terrorist ties. But a federal judge in Washington State put that and other measures on hold in February. A federal judge in Hawaii last month froze a revised executive order the included a refugee pause.
While the courts have stymied Trump, the statistics from the Refugee Processing Center suggest that the administration has quietly taken steps to dramatically slow the flow of refugees from failed states and countries that sponsor terrorism.
“I think the president might be doing more ‘extreme vetting’ than what was done before,” said Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which supported Trump’s travel ban. “I’m sure that these procedures have been developed.”
[lz_table title=”Refugee Resettlements Plummet” source=”The Tax Foundation”]Monthly averages less from February-April than October-January
All refugees,8 112, 3322
Fewer refugees are coming from other majority-Muslim countries listed in Trump’s travel ban. Under Obama, the average monthly total from Somalia from October through January was 1,009; the monthly average dropped to 378 from February through April. The monthly average from Iran dropped from 409 to 166. From Sudan, the average declined from 114 a month to 86.
Refugees from Iraq — which was part of Trump’s original travel ban but not the revised order — tumbled 64 percent, declining from monthly average of 1,210 from October through January to 433 from February through April.
The United States has taken only a handful of refugees from Yemen and Libya, two other countries included in the travel-ban executive orders.
Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said he does not know if the Trump administration has altered procedures for processing refugees. But based on the numbers, he said, it is a reasonable assumption.
“If you’re seeing that for four or five countries … they definitely are slowing down either their advanced vetting or redirecting refugees,” he said.
David Cross, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform, said he worries about taking in large numbers of refugees from failed states where asylum-seekers cannot be properly checked.
“Obama was really open to a lot of globalism and turning things over to the United Nations,” he said. “Obama was very open to that, and Trump isn’t.”
Notwithstanding the court orders preventing Trump from formally reducing the annual refugee cap, Hajec said the president retains wide latitude in running the program.
“I think it’s A, legal, and B, the result of more careful vetting,” he said.