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Trump's new refugee cap in midst of crisis provokes debate in Washington

Protesters block an intersection near Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

A debate is heating up in Washington over the United States' role in the world when it comes to resettling refugees.

The Trump administration recently announced it would cap the number at 45,000; less than half of former President Barack Obama’s cap of 110,000.

The move fulfills a campaign promise of sorts -- to "put America first."

In a speech in August of last year, President Donald Trump called for extreme vetting.

“The size of current immigration flows are simply too large to perform adequate screening,” he said.

45,000 is the lowest level since the beginning of the formal U.S. refugee resettlement program back in 1980.

But from Syria to Somalia, the crisis is unparalleled. Violence and hunger are making it impossible for millions of people to remain in the place they call home.

“We’re seeing the highest levels of global displacement since World War II, with over 65 million people displaced around the world,” said Giulia McPherson with the Jesuit Refugee Service.

But this global displacement comes at a time when safety and security has taken center stage.

“I’d like to know more -- why 45,000? I understand deterioration in the Mideast and Africa particularly where you have nation states that are failing, so a time-out in some areas makes sense,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“We’re undermining our national interest with this very drastic, dramatic, inhumane reduction in refugees coming here,” countered Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Giulia McPherson with the Jesuit Refugee Service, agrees.

“We have a long proud history of welcoming refugees and it says a lot about our role in the world, the role that we’d like to play in terms of demonstrating leadership on this issue,” McPherson said.

There's also the issue of cost. State and local governments often complain about shouldering the cost of refugees, though long term it turns out they may provide a benefit to the economy.

A Department of Health and Human Services report leaked to the New York Times found refugees over time pay more into the government than they take out.

In a 10-year period that number was about $63 billion.


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