The Trump administration plans to dramatically reduce the number of refugees admitted into the United States for the fiscal year of 2020, but still appropriate nearly one-third for persecuted religious victims.
The U.S. State Department released a proposal Thursday, Sept. 26, saying it would put the refugee limit at 18,000 for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, much lower than the 30,000 cap allowed into the country this year.
This number is the lowest since the government’s refugee program was created in 1980, according to The Associated Press.
Explaining in a statement, the department said the numbers of asylum-seekers crossing the southern border from Mexico have posed “an extraordinary burden” on the authorities.
“The current burdens on the U.S. Immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large number of refugees,” the department said.
Under the new proposal, the administration will set aside 5,000 for persecuted religious minorities, 1,500 for asylum-seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and some for Iraqis who helped the U.S. military.
A senior White House official described the proposed new designations for religious minorities and other groups of notable importance to U.S. strategic goals as a positive step forward.
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has been pushing an attempt to bolster global religious freedom.
In July, the State Department organized the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom—the largest religious freedom conference in the world, in which President Trump met with 27 victims of religious persecution from 17 countries.
Among the victims was Yuhua Zhang—a former professor at Nanjing Normal University, who was illegally imprisoned and tortured by China’s communist regime for refusing to give up an ancient meditation practice called Falun Dafa.
Speaking to the survivors of persecution at the meeting, President Trump said, “In our Bill of Rights the first liberty is religious liberty. Each of us has the right to follow the dictates of our conscience and the demands of our religious conviction. We know that if people are not free to practice their faith then all of the freedoms are at risk.”
In the latest effort to boost religious freedom, President Trump on Sept. 23 held an event at the U.N. General Assembly to call for protecting the religious victims.
“As we speak, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, many other people of faith are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured, and even murdered even at the hands of their own governments simply for expressing their deeply held religious beliefs,” President Trump lamented, as he called on world leaders to be more tolerant.
“Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution. Stop the crimes against people of faith! Release prisoners of conscience! Repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief! Protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed!” President Trump said.