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Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is proposing to cut the number of refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S. next year to just 18,000 — down from a record-low of 30,000 last year, according to a State Department press release on Thursday.

Why it matters: The administration also plans to prioritize refugees who have been persecuted for religious beliefs, Iraqis who have helped the U.S. overseas, and legitimate refugees from Northern Triangle countries, per the release. This would be the fourth time the Trump administration lowered the refugee cap, and it had reportedly discussed lowering it to zero. There are more displaced people in the world today than at any point since World War II, according to the United Nations.

  • In addition, Trump issued an Executive Order on Thursday evening instructing the federal government to resettle refugees only in jurisdictions where state and local governments have consented to receive those refugees, with "limited exceptions."
  • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement that the new refugee cap will allow DHS "to focus on addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border, reducing a staggering asylum backlog that unfairly delays relief for those with meritorious claims..."

Between the lines: The asylum system and high number of applicants was also mentioned in the State Department press release. Advocates for cutting the refugee cap often argue that the high numbers of asylum seekers the U.S. allows in compensates for cutting the refugee cap — both forms of humanitarian protection for those who have been forced to flee their home nations.

  • "The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large number of refugees," the press release said.
  • Jared Kushner has also argued that the money spent on bringing refugees into the U.S. would be better spent helping countries already hosting refugees.

The big picture: Trump has made it more difficult for victims and refugees to find help in the U.S.

  • His administration has repeatedly tried to thwart asylum seekers through new regulations.
  • Denial rates for visas intended for victims of crime or human trafficking have risen.
  • The administration has also ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from nations such as El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua — although the courts have kept the protected status alive for now.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to clarify that the administration proposed the new ceiling. It must first consult with Congress.

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

3 hours ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.