U.S. Bishops Commend New Refugee Admissions Target

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the U.S. Administration’s decision to set the refugee admission ceiling at 125,000 for the coming year. The Conference also urged policymakers to allocate the necessary resources to reach this goal.

U.S. Bishops Commend New Refugee Admissions Target
Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville welcomed the highest refugee admissions ceiling in nearly 30 years. He also warned that increased resources are crucial to reviving a refugee admissions program that cuts have crippled. Photo: a young refugee waiting for resettlement to the U.S. at ICMC’s Refugee Support Center in Turkey, 2015. © Gökham Özfirinci/ICMC

On 11 October, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)’s Committee on Migration, welcomed the 8 October Presidential Determination that set the refugee admission ceiling at 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2022.  In his statement, the bishop reaffirmed the USCCB’s commitment to protect vulnerable members of the human family.

“We commend the Administration for seeking to reassert American leadership [in the area of refugee resettlement], and we look forward to continued action in support of this goal. We also urge Congress to provide the resources necessary to not only rebuild the Refugee Admissions Program but sustain it for the next four decades and beyond,” Bishop Dorsonville said in his statement.

The highest in nearly thirty years, the new admissions ceiling comes after four years of continued cuts to the number of refugees admitted into the country. Historically, the United States has set an average annual refugee admissions ceiling of 95,000 since the adoption of the U.S. Resettlement Admissions Program in 1980. Officeholders traditionally viewed this ceiling as an attainable objective.

 However, the number was cut by over 80% over the past four years, dropping to a record low of 18,000 for Fiscal Year 2020. Actual resettlement numbers for that period were even lower, due partly to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite an increase in the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 last year, poor infrastructure made it difficult to reach even a fifth of that goal, and the U.S. resettled just over 11,000 refugees over the past twelve months. 

Increased resources are critical to “supporting a robust Refugee Admissions Program” that has been crippled by cuts, says a report from Refugee Council USA. Over the past four years, nearly a third of local resettlement offices in the U.S. closed due to low resettlement numbers and a lack of resources.

“In a special way, we as Catholics are called to this ministry of welcome and encounter, through which we express the fullness of the Church’s universality,” said Bishop Dorsonville in his statement. He pledged the U.S. Bishops’ continued commitment to welcome migrants and refugees, and praised “the many Catholic organizations, communities, and persons dedicated to what Pope Francis has referred to as ‘a new ‘frontier’ for mission.”

The USCCB is the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC)’s national member in the United States. The USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) supports the resettlement of nearly one-fifth of refugees arriving each year in the U.S..

Through its Resettlement Support Center for Turkey and Middle East (RSC TuME), ICMC assists refugees before their arrival to the U.S. by facilitating their application process, obtaining necessary documentation and personal histories, arranging medical examinations, and scheduling travel.  During the past year, of all Resettlement Support Centers collaborating with the U.S. government, the RSC TuME assisted the second-highest number of families that benefitted from resettlement. Through the ICMC Deployment Scheme, the organization also provides legal and protection experts to support activities by U.N. Agencies to identify refugees in need of third-country resettlement.

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