WASHINGTON—After the Biden administration announced it would not increase the record-low cap on refugee admissions until May, the U.S. bishops expressed disappointment on Monday.
“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,” Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C. and chair of the migration committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference, stated on Monday.
“The dire circumstances confronting refugees and asylees has been of particular concern for the Catholic Church,” he added.
On Friday, it was reported that the Biden administration would not increase the cap on refugee admissions for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year; the current limit of 15,000 refugees to be resettled this year in the United States is the lowest on record.
The United States has accepted only 2,050 refugees in the current fiscal year, according to the International Rescue Committee. In February, President Biden promised to raise the refugee limit to 62,500. At the 40th anniversary celebration of Jesuit Refugee Services in November, Biden promised to eventually raise the limit to 125,000.
Currently, the refugee admissions cap is at 15,000, set by the Trump administration. President Trump progressively lowered the refugee admissions cap with each year of his administration.
Late on Friday evening, the White House clarified that it would raise the refugee limit in May.
“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his [Biden’s] initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” the White House stated on Friday on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021.
The White House also said that it would be allowing refugees to come to the United States from regions previously blocked off for resettlement; flights from those regions are slated to begin within days.
“With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15,” the White House stated.
Bishop Dorsonville stated the USCCB’s wishes that the administration ultimately raise the refugee cap to 125,000.
“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 stated.
According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), the number of forcibly displaced people was nearly 80 million at the end of 2019; 26 million of these were refugees.
“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,” Dorsonville stated.