Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The United States will lower the number of refugees it will permit to resettle in the country to 18,000 in 2020, the State Department announced Thursday.
The Trump administration announced the new refugee ceiling in the president's annual report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions, which states that the United States anticipates receiving more than 368,000 new refugees and asylum claims in 2020 and resettling 18,000 of them. The agency also anticipates processing more than 350,000 individuals in new asylum cases.
The State Department's notice stated that the United States must alleviate "current burdens on the U.S. immigration system" before it is able to resettle large numbers of refugees.
"Prioritizing the humanitarian protection cases of those already in our country is simply a matter of fairness of common sense," it said.
During a background call with reporters, a senior administration official said that the 2020 ceiling was determined using a group of "special humanitarian interests" to the United States instead of being based on regions like past figures.
The official said the allocations prioritized people who have been persecuted for their religious beliefs, Iraqis who have assisted the United States, nationals of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and 7,500 other refugees not covered by the other categories.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized the announcement, saying no other administration has proposed admitting "this few refugees."
"America was once a beacon of hope to those suffering under oppression. We welcomed the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free," she tweeted.
Refugees "should be welcomed with compassion and understanding, not turned away or have their children taken from them at the border. We're better than that. Sadly, the administration's low refugee number says otherwise."
Since taking office President Donald Trump lowered the refugee cap from 110,000 to 50,000 for 2017, then to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 for 2019.
Trump also signed an executive order Thursday, requiring heads of the State and Health and Human Services departments to develop a process under which states and localities must consent to refugee resettlement before refugees can be sent to the areas.