21:31 GMT06 June 2020
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    The White House is considering a plan significantly cutting back a decades-old program, according to current and former administration officials.

    One option that top officials are weighing would cut refugee admissions by half or more, to 10,000 to 15,000 people, with most of the spots coming with specific requirements, the New York Times reported. For example, those who may enter the refugee program include people from a few countries or from groups with special status, such as Iraqis and Afghans working alongside American troops, diplomats and intelligence operatives abroad.

    Another option, reportedly proposed by a top administration official, would reduce refugee admissions to zero, while leaving the president with the ability to admit some in an emergency.

    The issue is expected to be raised on Tuesday, when White House officials plan to hold a high-level meeting to discuss the annual number of refugee admissions for the coming year, as determined by President Trump.

    The refugee program had previously been capped by Stephen Miller, Trump’s top immigration adviser, limiting the entry at 30,000 refugees for 2019 - a more than 70 percent cut from its level when President Barack Obama left office. Miller and his team at the Departments of State and Homeland Security are pushing to shrink the program even further following the president’s aim to reduce the number of documented and undocumented immigrants entering the United States, according to one senior official involved in the discussions and several former officials briefed on them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail the private deliberations.

    Two years ago, the refugee program was capped at 45,000 for 2018, supported by then-secretary of state Rex W. Tillerson and then-secretary of defence Mattis. After Mile Pompeo became the secretary of state and Mattis left the cabinet, the president dropped the ceiling to 30,000.

    In his announcement last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued that because of a recent surge of asylum seekers at the southwestern border, there was less of a need for the United States to accept refugees from abroad.

    “This year’s refugee ceiling reflects the substantial increase in the number of individuals seeking asylum in our country, leading to a massive backlog of outstanding asylum cases and greater public expense,” Pompeo said at the time.

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