Activists take part in a demonstration organized by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 14 in Washington. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

PRESIDENT TRUMP wants to keep Confederate monuments where they are, but he may be preparing the ideological justification for removing a far more important symbol of enduring American values: the Statue of Liberty. Having already cut refugee resettlement by more than half, compared with the Obama administration, officials close to Mr. Trump are pushing for a further draconian reduction, to levels not seen since the Cold War. If Mr. Trump backs such a proposal, the message to those fleeing persecution and violence would be to shelter in place — any place, as long as it's not the United States.

So much for welcoming the tired, huddled masses.

A report in the New York Times describes an initiative driven by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller that would whack annual refugee admittances below the current cap fixed by Mr. Trump of 50,000, already the lowest number since at least 1980 and less than half the 110,000 that President Barack Obama set in his last year in office.

Mr. Miller is said to have urged a ceiling of 15,000 annual admittances, fewer than the number of new refugees fleeing persecution and violence each day — about 28,000, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. That hints at the administration's indifference to the world's refugees, who now number about 17 million (not counting Palestinians). Half of them are children.

The stated rationales for further refu­gee cuts — concerns over terrorists sneaking in, and the costs involved — are not defensible. In fact, both the Obama and Trump administrations have tightened vetting for refugees, who are now the subject of exhaustive background checks despite the fact that very few terrorist attacks, in the United States or Europe, have been carried out by refugees. As for the cost, most is borne by private resettlement agencies.

In fact, the Trump administration is waging a multi-front crusade against legal as well as illegal immigration, in which the president's stated compassion for "dreamers" — young undocumented immigrants usually brought to the United States by their parents — is the exception that proves the rule. Mr. Trump backs drastically cutting levels of legal immigration. He is appealing to the Supreme Court to uphold his ban on immigrants from six mainly Muslim countries. He has intensified deportation sweeps targeting not only criminal immigrants, but also law-abiding migrants who have lived in this country for years.

By adding refugees — by definition the world's most beleaguered people — to its lengthy list of undesirables, the administration would conflate what is essentially a humanitarian and diplomatic program with its anti-immigrant agenda. As former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff argued in The Post on Friday, gutting the refugee program subverts the United States' security and economic interests while turning Washington's back on those brave enough to oppose the Islamic State and other groups antithetical to America's interests.

Republican and Democratic presidents have backed a robust refugee-resettlement program not mainly to make Americans feel good about themselves, but to bolster America’s image as a confident, welcoming country whose interests span the globe. By rolling back refugee admissions to levels negligible when measured against the need, the administration would accelerate Washington’s retreat from the global stage and inaugurate a new age of American timidity.