Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has proposed cutting the number of refugees permitted to enter the United States next year to 15,000, a record low and 3,000 fewer than it authorized last year.
The proposed reduction, submitted before a legal deadline Wednesday, represents the lowest level to date for the Refugee Admissions Program under President Donald Trump -- who has steadily decreased admissions since taking office in 2017.
"The United States anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum claims in fiscal year 2021. Of that number, up to 15,000 would be refugees admitted through the [program] and more than 290,000 would be individuals in new asylum cases," the State Department said in a statement.
The proposal "reflects the administration's continuing commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," the department said.
Refugee admissions were capped at 50,000 in 2017, then declined to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 for 2019. The administration set the limit at 18,000 for 2020, but has only permitted about half that amount so far this year.
The administration suspended all refugee admissions in March due to pandemic.
The proposal came on the same day Trump aimed fiery rhetoric toward refugees on the campaign trail. At a stop in Minnesota Wednesday, he warned that Democratic opponent Joe Biden will turn the state into a "refugee camp" and "overwhelm" public resources, crowd schools and inundate hospitals.
Biden has proposed admitting about 95,000 refugees into the United States a year.
"The United States has always strived to serve as a beacon of hope -- a role model in resettling refugees and leading the humanitarian response abroad," he said in June.
"Donald Trump has made clear that he does not believe our country should be a place of refuge. ... He has cruelly separated thousands of children from their parents, sought to prevent victims of gang and domestic violence from receiving asylum and severely limited the ability of members of the LGBTQ community ... from qualifying for asylum."
The United Nations Refugee Agency has estimated that at least 80 million people worldwide fled their homes in 2019.
"Refugees have done everything our government has asked of them, yet they continue to be met with egregious processing delays and open hostility from this administration," Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President Krish Vignarajah tweeted.
"For an administration that professes the importance of religious freedom, its actions have been nothing short of hypocritical, as it slams the door on those whose lives are endangered simply because of how they worship."