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U.S. Resettling Record Low Numbers Of Refugees


It's not news that President Trump's administration is closing doors on refugees. That's part of his signature policy to limit migration. The United States has cut the number of refugees it admits from other parts of the world from 85,000 three years ago down to 30,000 this year. A side effect of this policy change is less visible. It's becoming difficult for the United States to help even those groups overseas that the administration says it supports.

Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Refugees usually flee war. These days, many are religious minorities fleeing persecution. That's especially true in the Middle East, where Christians, Yazidis and Muslims are all suffering. The Trump administration regularly condemns that persecution. But Jenny Yang of the nonprofit organization World Relief says the administration needs also to let people come here.

JENNY YANG: There's no way that the administration can consider ongoing genocide against religious minorities in the Middle East and effectively shut the door for some of the most vulnerable people to actually gain protection in the United States.

GJELTEN: The Trump administration vocally supports more religious freedom around the world. Last summer, Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for Religious Freedom, presided over a ministerial summit calling on diplomats to do more for persecuted religious minorities.


SAM BROWNBACK: Most people in the world live in a religiously restrictive environment. If we're going to change that, you've got to be in the game with us. This administration is fully committed to this cause, and it's going to keep driving this aggressively. This will be one of the lead foreign policy issues of this administration.

GJELTEN: President Trump says he's concerned about the persecution of Christians. But even Christian refugees have trouble coming here. In a new report, World Relief, which assists with refugee resettlement, says about 60 percent fewer Christians from Pakistan have been admitted compared to three years ago and 95 percent fewer Christians from Iraq. Muslim refugees are down by 90 percent. Jenny Yang of World Relief says the sharp reduction in refugee admissions contradicts the administration's commitment to religious freedom.

YANG: They need to look at what it would mean to protect religious minorities, not only where they are, but also to be able to come into the United States.

GJELTEN: Projected refugee admissions for this year are unlikely even to reach the administration's historically low ceiling. Strict vetting procedures keep many out. According to a State Department spokesperson, the United States remains committed to the protection of religious groups across the globe. It will continue to resettle the most vulnerable, including those who have fled religious persecution, while, quote "prioritizing the safety and security of the American people." Tom Gjelten, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTAN DE LIEGE'S "INTRO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.