Admitting fewer refugees ‘runs counter’ to U.S. values, say USCCB leaders

WASHINGTON — A proposal to reduce the number of refugee admissions to the United States to fewer than 30,000 “would be wholly counter to our values as a nation of immigrants,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chair of the bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“America welcomes refugees; that is who we are, that is what we do. Such reductions would undermine America’s leadership role as a global champion and protector of religious freedom and human rights,” they said in a joint statement Sept. 13.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, the committee chairman, were responding to reports that administration officials will recommend to President Donald Trump the number of refugees accepted be below 30,000, “already an historic low.”

Since Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, the U.S. had admitted on average 95,000 refugees annually. In recent years, the U.S. has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year. The number was capped at 45,000 after Trump became president in 2017 and was scaled back to 30,000 refugees for fiscal year 2019.

Setting caps on the number of refugees to be accepted from five global regions is done at the beginning of each fiscal year by the president, in consultation with Congress. The deadline for the upcoming consultation is Sept. 30.

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez noted the Catholic Church is preparing to celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees Sept. 29, so “we are reminded of Pope Francis urging us all to work for a ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of ‘indifference.'”

The prelates noted that beginning with European refugees in the aftermath of World War I, the U.S. Catholic Church “has more than a century of experience resettling vulnerable populations to a safer life and one in which they have contributed to the greatness of America.”

“The 3.4 million refugees that America has welcomed since 1975 have paid billions of dollars in taxes, founded companies, earned citizenship and bought homes at notably high rates,” they said.

“In light of refugees’ extraordinary contributions to our country, and of the world’s struggle with the greatest forced displacement crisis on record and historic highs in religious persecution, we categorically oppose any further reductions in the refugee resettlement program,” Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez said.

Earlier this year, reports the Trump administration was considering “zeroing out” refugee admissions all together were roundly condemned by the USCCB, other faith-based organizations and religious orders.

In a Catholic News Service interview in July, Bill Canny, executive director of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services, noted the historically low number of refugees admitted to the U.S. over the past couple of years, saying: “Of the millions of refugees around the world, only about 1% will be resettled, that number will decrease and leave more people vulnerable if these actions come to fruition.”

He said the administration should reconsider making these devastating cuts.

“Our military relies on the work of interpreters while in the field and those interpreters are putting their lives and their families’ lives on the line. To not open our arms to them when they have done so for us, would go against who we are as a nation,” Canny said.

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