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Kushner: "Doesn’t make a difference" how many refugees U.S. accepts

Jared Kushner
Jared Kushner. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the grandson of refugees who fled to America to escape the Holocaust, defended President Trump's decision to slash the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. in an interview with "Axios on HBO."

Driving the news: Kushner told Axios that his family's experience — from "the precipice of life and death" to the West Wing in just two generations — is a reminder of "how great this country is." But "you can’t have all of them come into your country," Kushner said of the 68.5 million refugees in the world.

When asked whether he supported Trump's move to limit refugee admissions to the lowest level in 40 years, Kushner said the number "doesn’t make a difference one way or the another."

  • "I think the amount of money you can spend to help refugees to resettle in their countries and deal with aid is very impactful," he said.

Reality check: The Trump administration has cut or threatened to cut funding for refugee programs, as well as aid to the nations those refugees are fleeing.

By the numbers: Since taking office, Trump has lowered the cap on refugee resettlements to the U.S. from 110,000 to a record low of 30,000. The U.S. is projected to fall short of that ceiling for the second year in a row, according to an analysis by World Relief, a humanitarian organization that resettles and cares for refugees.

  • Meanwhile, there are more forcibly displaced people in the world than at any point since World War II, according to the UN.

Details: Trump's 2020 budget request proposed a 23% cut to international programs and the State Department — the second-highest cut to any agency.

At Trump's request, the State Department said it will cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where gang violence, high murder rates, poverty and political unrest have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee for the U.S.

  • Many of those people are seeking asylum, and that's a separate process from the refugee resettlement program.
  • Both asylum-seekers and refugees, however, have fled persecution and danger in their home countries and have sought sanctuary in the U.S.

The other side: Proponents of dropping the refugee cap have pointed to the asylum system as another way the U.S. cares for refugees.

  • An average of 23,800 people have been granted asylum every year over the past decade, according to DHS data.
  • But the administration has tried to curtail the asylum system as well.
  • The U.S. still resettles more refugees than any other wealthy nation, although Canada and Australia now resettle more refugees per capita than the U.S., according to World Relief's Jenny Yang.

"We’re doing our best ... to make sure that you're funding these situations so that the people who are immediately becoming refugees can have as much care as possible," Kushner said.