‘Miller is Not Deterred’: Top Immigration Aide Pushing Cuts in Refugee Numbers

The president suggested going as low as just 5,000, according to a former administration official.

President Donald Trump last year advocated dropping the refugee cap as low as 5,000 people, down from 50,000, according to a former administration official – a cut far more drastic than even his most hawkish adviser, Stephen Miller, proposed at the time.

Ultimately, the administration restricted to 45,000 the flow of refugees into the U.S. this fiscal year – the lowest since the program began in 1980, and less than half the target of 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in his last planning cycle.

But the discussion set the terms of the administration’s refugee policymaking. Now Miller and a group of like-minded aides are pressing to reduce drastically the number of people entering the U.S., both legally and illegally.

The immigration hawks are moving forward despite the blowback they got over their imposition of a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy at the southern border that resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration officials and outside White House advisers.

One Republican close to the White House and a former White House official familiar with the discussions predicted the cap could fall as low as 15,000 in 2019, continuing a contraction of overall immigration, both legal and illegal. A tiny group of key administration officials led by the National Security Council’s Mira Ricardel were planning to meet Friday to debate the coming year’s refugee cap. Late Thursday, however, a White House official said the meeting about refugees had been postponed. It is not yet determined when it will be rescheduled.

“Inside the Washington beltway, this is a numbers game that’s being carried out by people who don’t care about refugees and are orienting this to their base,” said Anne Richard, who was assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration in the Obama administration

By Nancy Cook, Nahal Toosi, TEd Hesson for POLITICO
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