Denver Newsroom, Oct 2, 2020 / 10:01 am
The U.S. State Department informed Congress this week that the U.S. anticipates 15,000 refugees to be admitted and resettled during fiscal year 2021, the lowest number allowed since 1980. Catholic groups told CNA that they believe the U.S. can and should accept more refugees in 2021, rather than fewer.
In a media note posted Sept. 30, the State Department said the U.S. anticipates receiving more than 300,000 new refugee and asylum claims in fiscal year 2021, and that the department already has a backlog of 1.1 million claims.
About 9,000 refugees entered the US in fiscal year 2020. The administration had planned to allow 18,000, but the coronavirus pandemic led President Trump to suspend indefinitely the asylum system in March.
Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, and Bishop Mario Dorsonville, auxiliary bishops of Washington and chair of the USCCB's migration committee, said Oct. 2: “We continue to be disappointed by the Trump Administration’s diminishment of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, as these decisions have a tangible impact on those fleeing religious persecution and other vulnerable families in need of refuge. While refugees will thankfully be allowed to seek refuge here in the United States in 2021, the low number of admissions, given the global need and the capacity and wealth of the United States, is heartbreaking. We exhort Congress to seriously examine the Administration’s proposal and strongly encourage the President to increase the eventual presidential determination significantly.”
The bishops said that “welcoming refugees is an act of love and hope. By helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”
“We urge the Administration to continue to offer welcome to refugees to our country. We can and must lead by example in the defense of all human life, including those fleeing persecution,” they concluded.
Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, urged the administration to reconsider, given the refugee program’s humanitarian mission. Local Catholic Charities groups throughout the country are often very involved in the resettlement of refugees.
“The individuals and families who apply for this program aren’t doing so by choice. They have been forced to flee their homeland to avoid persecution, threats of violence, and death,” Markham said Oct. 1.