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Report: White House To Lower Refugee Cap

Parents pick up their children at Naranca Elementary in El Cajon, Oct. 5, 201...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Parents pick up their children at Naranca Elementary in El Cajon, Oct. 5, 2016. The school is one of many in the San Diego suburb that has received an influx of Syrian refugees.

For the second year in a row, the White House reportedly wants to lower the cap on the number of refugees coming to the U.S. President Donald Trump plans to set the ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year at 45,000, down from 50,000 this year, multiple media outlets reported Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported the proposed limit would be the lowest since at least 1980.

News agencies said officials discussed the new cap with federal lawmakers on Wednesday ahead of a formal announcement, which the Associated Press reported is expected in the "coming days." That consultation likely did not include all Congressional representatives from San Diego, which is a top destination for refugees.

Federal law requires the president or his designated representatives to discuss the refugee ceiling with judiciary committees in the Senate and House of Representatives prior to the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is the only San Diego-area representative who sits on the House’s Judiciary Committee. His office did not return a request for comment regarding his involvement.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, said in a statement he supports "continuing efforts to strengthen our vetting process" and that he will follow the issue closely, but his office could not confirm if he would get an official say because he doesn’t sit on the judiciary committee. Hunter represents part of El Cajon, which many Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees call home. The congressman recently met with local leaders from the Chaldean community to discuss "religious minorities in Iraq," according to a Sept. 22 Facebook post.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, criticized the reportedly proposed reduction, but his office said the congressman likely would not have been approached because he also is not a member of the relevant committee.

“Lowering the cap even more further betrays our values as Americans and undermines our role as a global force for peace,” Peters said in a statement Tuesday.

Congressman Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, also said in a statement ahead of the consultations he opposed a decrease, calling such a move “immoral.”

“Turning our backs on parents and children seeking safety in the United States is a betrayal of our nation’s values,” said Vargas, whose district includes the immigrant community of City Heights.

Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego, was also against the cut.

"Being a beacon of hope and freedom, America has always led the way in welcoming those fleeing violence and oppression. This decision runs contrary to who we are as a country," she said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to Issa, four other representatives from California sit on the House Judiciary Committee. All of them are Democrats. That includes Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, who was also sharply critical of the president’s reported proposal.

“By any measure, Donald Trump’s reported consideration of a refugee ceiling of 50,000 or lower is extreme. But it is particularly reprehensible given the current global refugee and humanitarian crisis. Today, over 65 million around the world find themselves displaced from their homes,” said Lofgren, who also sits on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

An aide in Lofgren’s office told KPBS on Tuesday the congresswoman had not received official notification about the potential refugee arrival cap, and had only learned about the proposed reduction through the media. The staffer pointed to a subsection of the Immigration and Nationality Act that states "to the extent possible," representatives should be provided information two weeks ahead of discussions.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which was also supposed to be briefed. Her office did not immediately return a Tuesday evening voice message seeking comment.

Although The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets identified the proposed cap of 45,000 to be the lowest in decades, a review of government data by the Migration Policy Institute shows the ceiling on arrivals is not always reached. In the fiscal year following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. accepted 27,000 out of a possible limit of 70,000 refugees, according to remarks in 2003 by a then-assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflected new developments.

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