Human rights advocates said the Trump administration would be making a "catastrophic" and "grave error" if it followed through on a newly-reported proposal to slash refugee admissions to zero next year.
"It is beyond shameful and a new low, even for this administration, to even consider accepting no refugees to the U.S.," said Ryan Mace, grassroots advocacy and refugee specialist for Amnesty International USA.
Politico first reported on the recommendation late Thursday, citing three unnamed sources familiar with the proposal.
According to the news outlet,
During a key meeting of security officials on refugee admissions last week, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] representative who is closely aligned with White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller suggested setting a cap at zero, the people said. Homeland Security Department officials at the meeting later floated making the level anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000, according to one of the people.
Even the highest figure would be a fraction of the record-low 30,000 limit on refugees the Trump administration set for 2019, a decision that also drew sharp condemnation.
Among the roughly 20 individuals at last week's meeting, Politico reported, were USCIS official John Zadrozny and Andrew Vepre, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The presence of the two during the meeting, the reporting continued, "speaks to the influence of Miller over the Trump administration's immigration agenda. Both are viewed as proxies for the president's hard-line adviser."
News of the potentially dramatic slashing came the same week as the administration—in a move blasted as "deliberate cruelty"—issued a new policy targeting asylum-seekers. Already the subject of a lawsuit, the rule bans people who travel through another country before reaching the U.S.-Mexico from being eligible for asylum, which some viewed as an effective ban on asylum-seekers.
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Scott Roehm, director of the Center for Victims of Torture's Washington, D.C., office, referenced both developments in a statement on Thursday.
"The president and some of his senior advisers simply don't want refugees to come to the United States, whether through the resettlement program or as asylum-seekers," he said. "This is not about safety, or security, or economics; it's xenophobia-fueled politics. Closing our doors to some of the world's most vulnerable people, many of them torture survivors, is as un-American as it is appalling."
News of the potential zero cap on refugees in 2020 also came under fire from the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
"If confirmed," said Hans Van de Weerd, vice president for resettlement, asylum, and integration at IRC, "this decision is catastrophic."
"An admissions goal of zero would be another low in a global race to the bottom led by an administration that has introduced travel bans, illegal asylum procedures, family separations, child detention, and is now proposing to abandon a rich American tradition of providing safety and opportunity," Van de Weerd said. "These policies have caused unspeakable suffering for people most in need of protection."
"It is imperative that the United States avoids this grave error," he added.
To make that happen, Amnesty's Mace called on lawmakers and constituents alike to take action.
"We call on every member of Congress and their community to speak out for those seeking safety," he said, "and welcome refugees into their neighborhoods, schools, houses of worship, and homes."