U.S. lifts limit on refugee admissions

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NEW YORK, May 27 (APP): The U.S. State Department quietly
lifted its restriction this week on how many refugees are allowed
to enter the U.S. despite efforts by the Trump administration to
scale back refugee resettlements, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Jennifer Smith, a department official, reportedly notified
refugee groups of the decision Thursday in an email stating that
they could begin bringing refugees to the U.S. “unconstrained by
the weekly quotas that were in place.”
Many of the organizations that received the email are private
agencies that help guide individuals hoping to enter the country
through the two-year U.S. application process.
The number of refugees entering the U.S. could double as a result
of the lifted restrictions, refugee advocates told the newspaper.
The leap could go from 830 a week for the first three weeks of
May to over 1,500 a week by next month.
While the lifted restriction occurred on the same day that
a Virginia-based federal appeals court handed down a ruling
that blocked President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting
six-majority Muslim countries, the decision is not related to
the ruling, the Times said.
Congress passed a spending bill last fall that tightly
constrained the budget for the State Department’s refugee
resettlement programme. The spending bill passed earlier
this month, however, does not impose any limits on refugee
admissions.
A State Department spokeswoman told the Times that State
consulted with the Justice Department about its refugee quotes
before making the decision to adjust them.
Refugee advocates were delighted by the State Departmen’s
decision. “This is long overdue, but we’e very happy,” Mark
Hetfield, president and chief executive of HIAS, an immigrant aid
society, said.
But many of the advocates said they were worried that any
reprieve would be temporary.
“The president’s proposed budget cuts for 2018 would mean
we would have a much smaller programme next year no matter
what happens with his executive orders,” Erol Kekic, executive
director of the immigration and refugee program at Church
World Service, said.
Perhaps even more worrisome, refugee advocates said they
had seen a slowdown in security screenings by the Department
of Homeland Security, whose checks are required for refugees
to enter the United States.
Still, even Republicans in Congress have said that few
of Trump’s proposed budget cuts to foreign aid and the State
Department’s budget would be adopted into law.
In a visit this week to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey,
Nikki R. Haley, the United Nations ambassador, all but
urged Congress to reverse Trump’s proposed cuts in aid to
refugees.