The chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee said April 19 he is disappointed that President Joe Biden announced he will not increase the 15,000 cap on the number of refugees who can be resettled in the United States for the current fiscal year.
The historically low cap was put in place by the Trump administration last Sept. 30 for fiscal year 2021, which for the federal government began Oct. 1.
"The number of refugees who will be welcomed this year is far short of what we can do as a country, and is not an adequate response to the immense resettlement need," said Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.
"We will work with the administration, state and local officials, and communities, and our colleagues to ensure that every one of the 15,000 refugees reaffirmed as this year's ceiling are resettled safely and as quickly as possible," he said, referring to the USCCB's Migration and Refugee Services, which among other U.S. nongovernmental organizations helps resettle refugees in this country.
"We expect the administration to recalibrate and raise this ceiling, as it stated it would do," Bishop Dorsonville said. "We further encourage the administration to build back the program to more normal and just levels by getting to an admission goal of 125,000."
When he came into office, Biden promised he would lift the cap to 62,500 refugees, so when he signed an emergency declaration April 16 keeping the 15,000 cap in place, the outcry from advocates for refugees was swift and vocal.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Biden had consulted with a number of advisers and decided that with "the decimated refugee admissions program" left by the Trump administration, resettling 62,500 refugees seemed "unlikely."
But after the criticism leveled at keeping the current cap in place, Psaki said Biden would "set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15."
"Given the unprecedented number of refugee families seeking new homes after being persecuted for religious, political and other reasons, we appreciate that the U.S. refugee admissions program will now offer previously left out refugees an opportunity to resettle in our country," Bishop Dorsonville said in his statement.
"At the same time, we were hopeful that the Biden administration would increase the ceiling for refugee admissions in this fiscal year, and we are disappointed that it has not yet done so," he said. "The dire circumstances confronting refugees and asylees has been of particular concern for the Catholic Church.
"The work of the U.S. Catholic bishops in assisting and advocating on behalf of immigrants and refugees is rooted in the recognition that every person is created in God’s image and must be valued, protected, and respected for the inherent dignity that he or she possesses."