President Trump Sets FY 2018 Refugee Admissions Cap at 45,000

Refugee Admissions Cap


On September 29, 2017, President Donald Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson setting the refugee admissions cap for fiscal year 2018 at 45,000 [PDF version]. The 45,000 refugee admissions cap for fiscal year (FY) 2018 is significantly lower than the cap of 110,000 that was set by the Obama Administration for fiscal year 2017, although that cap was subsequently reduced by an Executive Order issued by President Trump.1 The refugee admissions 2018 cap is also the lowest cap since 1980. In this article, we will examine the fiscal year 2018 refugee admissions cap announcement and what it means going forward. To learn about some of the internal deliberations that led to the 45,000 refugee admissions cap, please see our companion blog post on the subject [see blog].

Overview of the FY 2018 Refugee Admissions Cap

Under section 207(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the President must determine the number of refugees that may be admitted, after appropriate consultation with Congress, at the beginning of each fiscal year. Specifically, the President must determine the number that “is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.”

In his Memorandum, President Trump determined that the admission of up to 45,000 refugees to the United States during FY 2018 is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest. President Trump specified that this “includes persons admitted to the United States during FY 2018 with Federal refugee resettlement assistance under the Amerasian immigrant admissions program…”

President Trump stipulated the following regional allocations for refugee admissions in FY 2018:

Africa — 19,000
East Asia — 5,000
Europe and Central Asia — 2,000
Latin America/Caribbean — 1,500
Near East/South Asia - 17,500

President Trump also authorized Secretary Tillerson, after appropriate consultation with Congress, to transfer unused refugee admissions from one region to one or more other regions if such admissions are needed.

Additionally, in accord with section 101(a)(42) of the INA, and after consulting with Congress, President Trump specified that qualified persons from the following list may “be considered refugees for the purpose of admission to the United States within their countries of nationality or habitual residence”:

a. persons in Cuba
b. persons in Eurasia and the Baltics
c. persons in Iraq
d. persons in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador
e. persons identified by a United States Embassy in any occasion, in exceptional circumstances.

The notice will be published in the Federal Register.


As we noted, the cap of 45,000 refugees marks a significant decrease from the caps set in the latter years of the Obama Administration. The previous lowest cap set since 1982 was 67,000 in 1986. However, notwithstanding the higher caps, fewer than 45,000 refugees were admitted during several years early in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Although the new refugee admissions cap sets the upper limit for FY 2018, there are still several questions relating to refugee policy. Chief among these questions is whether the Trump Administration will implement new vetting measures upon in the aftermath of President Trump's Executive Order 13780 [see article]. We will update the site with new information on the refugee policies of the Trump Administration as it becomes available. Please see our blog for a discussion of reports on the deliberations that led to the refugee admissions cap of 45,000 for FY 2018 [see blog]. Interestingly, our blog looks at suggestions that the DHS may be looking to reallocate resources from refugees to making inroads into the substantial backlog of asylum applications.


  1. However, President Trump reduced the fiscal year 2017 cap to 50,000 in his Executive Order 13780 [see article].