Bishop Recommends U.S. Refugee Admissions Be at Least 95,000 Yearly

Geneva, 3 March 2020 - In a statement to the U.S. House of Representatives, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, urged the government to reclaim its role as the global leader in refugee resettlement.

“Reducing our leadership role in these situations potentially leaves a vacuum with not only negative humanitarian consequences but also negative strategic consequences,” said Bishop Dorsonville about the recent scaling back of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Photo: a family at ICMC's Resettlement Support Center in Lebanon before their resettlement to the U.S. ©Bruce Byers/ICMC. In a 27 February statement, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, presented his recommendations to maintain the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and to admit at least 95,000 refugees per year.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Washington , D.C., made these recommendations during his presentation before a House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship hearing on the current state of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

“The current resettlement system in the U.S. is an expansive public-private partnership with longstanding commitments from a broad group of faith-based organizations, including Jewish, Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran and Evangelical faiths as well as secular non-governmental organizations. Each involved entity raises private money, cultivates in-kind donations from local communities and volunteers matching federal dollars,” he wrote in his statement, describing the 40-year-old bi-partisan program that, until recently, made the U.S. the world leader in resettlement.

The bishop lamented the government’s decision in recent years to scale back the program. Only half of the expected 110,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. in 2017 and subsequent Presidential Determinations have dropped the ceiling to a new low each year. The cap for 2020 is set at 18,000, a target that the country is not likely to reach.

He urged the Administration to restore admissions to at least their historical average of 95,000 per year to respond to the unprecedented worldwide need for resettlement.

“Reducing our leadership role in these situations potentially leaves a vacuum with not only negative humanitarian consequences but also negative strategic consequences,” reads his statement. He asked the government to increase funding for the resettlement and integration of refugees, both before departure and once they arrive in the country.

Finally, Bishop Dorsonville asked the government to recognize the vital role of faith-based organizations and faith communities in refugee resettlement and integration. He described Social Catholic Teaching’s emphasis on the sacredness of every human life and the Christian duty to protect human dignity and welcome the alien. He underlined the USCCB’s role in resettling over one-third of the 3 million refugees to the U.S. since 1975.

Among other groups, he described the over 500,000 vulnerable refugees from Vietnam and its surrounding countries between 1979 and 1999.

Since its creation in 1951, ICMC has cooperated with the governments of the U.S. and other countries to facilitate resettlement of those refugees who cannot safely return to their home countries or be integrated in the countries where they first sought asylum. ICMC was extremely active in assisting the refugees from Southeast Asia mentioned by Bishop Dorsonville. Today, ICMC supports the resettlement to the U.S. of refugees in Turkey and Lebanon and helps identify vulnerable refugees most in need of resettlement through the ICMC-UNHCR Deployment Scheme.

Bishop Dorsonville also highlighted resettled refugees’ contributions to the U.S. He described the economic benefits of welcoming refugees as well as the skills and talents they bring to the country.

Ms. Barbara Strack, former chief of the Refugee Affairs Division for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and current advisory member for the Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program, was among the other witnesses who testified at the hearing.

Ms. Strack warned the House that foreign aid cannot replace resettlement, as resettlement is only considered when it is impossible for a refugee to safely remain in her/his host country. She also described security procedures for refugees, who are subjected to the most extensive vetting of all foreigners admitted to the U.S.