The government of U.S. President Donald Trump announced this week that it plans to limit the number of refugee arrivals in the U.S. to a record low number. But refugee activists and lawmakers say Congress still has time to change the president's mind.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to reporters about the plan. He claimed that refugees can be a security threat to the United States. In answer, he said, the executive branch is proposing a limit of up to 30,000 refugees in the fiscal year that begins October 1. If approved, the number would be the lowest since the early 1980s.
Before the president makes the final decision, however, lawmakers in Congress must be able to give their advice.
Jen Smyers is with the Church World Service, one of the leading refugee resettlement groups in the United States. She says government officials often suggest a number before the final decision is made. And, she says, Congress has succeeded before in increasing the planned number of refugee arrivals.
But, she added on a telephone call with reporters, the timeline is tight. The final decision will be made by the end of this month.
During Trump's first year in office, his government set the limit at 45,000 refugees. However, with less than two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, less than half of that amount has been reached.
Philemon Dushimire is a refugee from Burundi who now lives in Maine. There, he is a community organizer among the Burundi immigrant and refugee community. He told VOA that the decrease in the refugee limit may affect how the United States is viewed abroad.
The risk now is that America will be seen as a country which doesn't care about human rights violations in some places of the world. Which doesn't care about the safety of people in danger, he said.
Some lawmakers from both major parties have criticized the proposed refugee limit.
Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts accused the Trump government of trying to isolate America and not caring about people suffering around the world.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from the Miami area, also answered on social media. She is a political refugee herself.
With crises in every region of the world, U.S. should be doing more, not less, to be a global leader in refugee protection, she tweeted shortly after Pompeo's announcement on Monday.
I'm Phil Dierking.