While entry in to the US for refugees has been suspended this year due to the coronavirus, driving the tally from the 2020 fiscal year to just 9,000 refugees as of Aug. 31 (one month before the end of the fiscal year). With the new fiscal year starting Thursday, the administration's Department of Homeland Security, along with Health and Human Services, submitted "the President's Report to Congress on the Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021", asking for just 15,000 refugees for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
In the report, the administration acknowledges that it expects to receive more than 300,000 applications for refuge and asylum. Of these, the US will only accept 15,000 - max.
Trump suspended processing of refugees between March and July, and the pace hasn't exactly rebounded.
As the chart above from the Washington Examiner shows, the number of refugees accepted in the US every year tumbled during the final years of the Soviet Union, before the collapse of Communism sent a wave of refugees to the US, causing the numbers to climb once again during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The number of refugees accepted into the US started to decline during the late 1990s, before plunging after Sept. 11.
Between 2000 and 2001, the number of refugees admitted to the US dropped from more than 60,000 to 27,000. During the Obama years, both the ceiling and the actual number of admissions climbed to the highest levels in nearly 20 years.
Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 in 2017 on his way out the door, the highest cap in decades, which capped years of rising tallies.
Despite that, Trump admitted just 54,000 refugees that year after issuing his executive order "travel ban," which barred refugees from a list of mostly Muslim countries while also calling for the suspension of the admission of all refugees for four months.
"The President’s proposal for refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2021 reflects the Administration’s continuing commitment to prioritize the safety and well-being of Americans, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," the 2021 statement reads. "It accounts for the massive backlog in asylum cases – now more than 1.1 million individuals – by prioritizing those who are already in the country seeking humanitarian protection. It also accounts for the arrival of refugees whose resettlement in the United States was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
VP Joe Biden has called for raising the cap on refugees to 125,000, along with expanding access to work visas and creating more pathways to citizenship.