Bill Canny, executive director for Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), told CNA that the number of refugees the United States was accepting from Syria in past years was already small in comparison to the millions who were forced to flee their homes.
The U.S. Bishops had advocated for an annual refugee cap of at least 75,000 for the United States for 2018, before the Trump administration announced it would be 45,000, Canny added.
“We were already only able to help a few, and not being able to do that is very disconcerting,” Canny told CNA.
The USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Service is one of nine national resettlement programs, working with the Catholic Charities network throughout the country to help resettle refugees, including Syrians. Most refugees arrive in the United States simply wanting a dignified life and are eager to be contributing citizens, Canny noted.
“They want good education for their children, they jump on work opportunities, I think that in a matter of a few months at least 75 percent of refugees get a job and start working,” he said. “These are people who have suffered badly, languishing in either refugee camps or urban slums oftentimes, who deserve another chance.”
He added that refugees who enter the United States were already subjected to the strictest vetting, and that additional security measures were not necessary.
“While we respect safety concerns and we know it’s the government’s right to keep us safe, we don’t think the refugee program is an avenue of danger to our citizens, due to the extensive security checks that have been done for a number of years,” Canny said.
Furthermore, the issue of refugee resettlement should be of particular concern to Christians because the Gospel compels them to care for the poor and the needy, Canny noted.
“Certainly it’s a core responsibility of our faith, from exhortations in the Old Testament to welcome the stranger, to make sure that one cares for newcomers, and of course from the New Testament and the teachings of Christ,” he said. “Matthew 25 compels us to help the neediest, and certainly refugees are really the neediest.”