By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration Oct. 11 praised a plan by President Joe Biden to raise the refugee cap to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022.
“The last few years have had a devastating impact on refugee resettlement, all while we witness the greatest forced migration crises in decades,” said Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington.
He said the bishops “commend the (Biden) administration for seeking to reassert American leadership in this area, 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,” he added.
The USCCB migration chairman also noted that “the positive contributions of refugees to our society have been well documented,” whether they are “fleeing war, natural disaster or persecution.”
“First and foremost, however, we recognize them as vulnerable members of the same human family to which we ourselves belong,” Bishop Dorsonville said.
In November 2020, after winning the election, Biden said during a virtual Jesuit Refugee Service event that he would raise the cap on refugee numbers for fiscal year 2021. After his inauguration, he signed an executive order doing so Feb. 4, 2021, which dropped the historically low 15,000 refugee cap set by former President Donald Trump.
But policies set by Trump and the dismantled Refugee Admissions Program that resulted, along with COVID-19 restrictions, led to just 11,411 refugees being admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2021, according to recently released figures from the U.S. Department of State.
Bill Canny, executive director of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, said that while organizations, including Catholic agencies and organizations that work with refugees, are “absolutely” ready to help, it will be difficult to meet the set goal.
“We have ability to ramp up relatively quickly,” Canny said. “We are going to do our part to welcome (refugees) into resettlement type programs.”
However, because of various factors related to COVID-19, “the government cannot go out and adjudicate” cases to allow that many refugees by the end of the fiscal year, he said.
The USCCB’s efforts join nine national resettlement agencies that partner with the U.S. government in helping those fleeing dangerous situations around the world.
“The Catholic Church’s involvement in refugee resettlement stems from the church’s social teaching on the common good and is consistent with its long-standing role in welcoming newcomers and supporting integration,” said a USCCB news release that included Bishop Dorsonville’s comments.
“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,” Bishop Dorsonville said.
“The bishops of the United States pledge our continued commitment to this work, and we praise the many Catholic organizations, communities, and persons dedicated to what Pope Francis has referred to as a new ‘frontier’ for mission,” he continued.
The bishop said this new frontier is “a privileged opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ and the Gospel message at home, and to bear concrete witness to the Christian faith in a spirit of charity.”
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Oct. 12 that raising the refugee cap to 125,000 represented “the most robust U.S. commitment in three decades to helping vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives in safety in the United States.”
“As the world seeks practical answers to pressing humanitarian questions, this U.S. commitment to refugee resettlement sends a concrete message that human compassion can and must remain central to policy action,” the agency said. “This U.S. decision will save lives.”