The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The incredible shrinking refugee cap, in one chart

Advocates for refugees demonstrate outside the U.S. Capitol this month. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

The Trump administration intends to cap the number of refugees admitted to the United States next fiscal year at 45,000, according to a Wall Street Journal report. If that number holds, it would be the tightest limit on refugee admissions since the White House began setting caps on the number in 1980.

The data above comes from official State Department tallies tracked by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that studies migration issues. The Refugee Act of 1980 mandated that the president set an annual cap on refugee admissions in consultation with Congress. That year the cap was set at over 231,000 refugees.

The annual cap declined sharply since then, peaking again in the mid-1990s as a response to the Balkan wars, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Since 2000, it's hovered primarily in the 70,000 to 80,000 range.

For fiscal year 2017, the Obama administration initially set a cap of 110,000. President Trump subsequently slashed that cap by more than half, to 50,000, after taking office in January. The number was surpassed in July.

“The United States has historically led the world in terms of refugee resettlement,” according to the Migration Policy Institute. Mass displacement of individuals hit record numbers in 2015 in what the institute calls a "global humanitarian crisis.”

If the proposed cap is put in place in 2018, the United States would be responding to that crisis by allowing the smallest number of refugees to the country in more than 35 years.