WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the decision to raise the refugee ceiling.
“As a nation of immigrants, we have a moral obligation to help our brothers and sisters around the world who are in need. The updated refugee admissions cap is a step in the right direction to help those who need it most,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington and chair of the USCCB’s migration committee, in a statement on Tuesday, May 4.
On Monday, May 3, the Biden Administration announced that it would be increasing the limit on the number of refugees admitted to the United States for the 2021 fiscal year; the new cap for refugee admissions has now been set at 62,500.
Bishop Dorsonville said the bishops were pleased by the decision, adding that it is “a crucial step toward rebuilding the crippled Refugee Admissions Program.”
“We view this number as a stepping stone toward the Administration’s stated goal of 125,000 admissions, a figure more consistent with our values and capabilities as a nation,” he said.
Addressing the 40th anniversary celebration of Jesuit Refugee Services in November, Biden had announced his goal of eventually resettling 125,000 refugees. In executive actions signed on Feb. 4, he said he intended to make reforms to U.S. refugee admissions, with the goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in the 2022 fiscal year.
“For decades, the United States has been a leader in refugee resettlement,” Bishop Dorsonville said on Tuesday. “We are in the midst of the greatest forced displacement crisis of our lifetime and know that there are more than 26 million refugees worldwide and more than 47 million people who are internally displaced.”
The bishop added that it is imperative that the United States act to “ensure the safety of these individuals and their families,” and that welcoming refugees is in line with the Church’s teaching on human dignity.
“It is more important now than ever that our country continue to lead as we address this humanitarian emergency,” he said.
While President Biden had previously signaled his intent to raise the refugee ceiling, he did not issue a final determination to do so during the initial weeks of his administration. The delay frustrated immigration and refugee groups, who told CNA last month that they were disappointed at the slow pace of refugee admissions.
According to the International Rescue Committee, a nonprofit that assists refugees, as of mid-April only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the United States in the 2021 fiscal year. Biden issued a draft “Presidential Determination” in February that would have raised the refugee cap to 62,500, but he did not sign it.