Faith-based agencies celebrate ‘return to moral leadership’ as Biden raises refugee ceiling to 125,000
(RNS) — Religion-based refugee resettlement teams are celebrating the Biden administration’s proposal to confess as many as 125,000 refugees to the USA within the coming yr, calling the choice a “return to ethical management.”
The information got here Monday afternoon (Sept. 20) because the Biden administration submitted its report to Congress setting the refugee ceiling for the brand new fiscal yr, which begins in October.
The proposal fulfills a marketing campaign pledge from President Joe Biden and reverses years of cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement program by former President Donald Trump.
“At present we have a good time a return to ethical management and our nation’s dedication to welcome and generosity,” Church World Service Senior Vice President Erol Kekic mentioned Monday in a written statement.
“In the end there’s hope for refugees seeking security, together with Afghans who’re in imminent hazard and hundreds of households ready to be reunited.”
Earlier this yr, Biden raised the refugee ceiling — the utmost variety of refugees allowed into the nation — from 15,000 to 62,500. That quantity is normally set by the president in session with Congress every fall forward of the brand new fiscal yr.
On the time, the Biden administration referred to as it a steppingstone to reaching 125,000 in his first full fiscal yr in workplace. Biden had pledged that quantity as a presidential candidate and reiterated it within the days after his election in a speech to Jesuit Refugee Service.
The quantity is just not traditionally uncommon — former President Barack Obama set the refugee ceiling at 110,000 the final yr he was in workplace. And, Church World Service identified, the nation welcomed greater than 207,000 refugees the yr after Congress handed the bipartisan Refugee Act of 1980, creating the present U.S. refugee resettlement program.
However it’s an about-face from the numbers set by Trump, which had been historic lows annually he was in workplace.
Nonetheless, amid a pandemic and the work of rebuilding the U.S. refugee resettlement system after 4 years of devastating cuts, the U.S. had admitted solely 7,637 refugees in 2021 by way of the tip of August.
Religion-based refugee resettlement teams — which make up the spine of the U.S. refugee resettlement system — agreed Monday there’s extra work to be carried out. Whilst they praised the upper refugee ceiling, the teams additionally requested Congress to decide to rebuilding and absolutely funding the U.S. refugee resettlement program so it may attain that quantity.
“Elevating this cover with out dedicating important sources, personnel, and measures to streamline the method could be largely symbolic,” mentioned Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah.
Six of the 9 refugee companies the U.S. authorities contracts to resettle refugees within the nation are faith-based: Church World Service, Episcopal Migration Ministries, HIAS (based because the Hebrew Immigrant Assist Society), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, World Reduction and the U.S. Convention of Catholic Bishops.
Church World Service and HIAS each famous that they had referred to as on the Biden administration to lift the variety of refugees allowed into the U.S. this coming yr even larger — to 200,000.
Naomi Steinberg, HIAS vp for coverage and advocacy, referred to as elevating the refugee ceiling “the suitable factor to do.”
However, the group mentioned in its written statement, it’s solely a “first step.” It additionally mentioned the U.S. should present the identical companies to Afghans arriving within the nation after fleeing the Taliban that refugees obtain once they come to the U.S.
Religion-based refugee resettlement companies have been welcoming Afghan evacuees dropped at the U.S. on Particular Immigrant Visas, which had been created for Afghans who assisted the U.S. authorities, or on humanitarian parole. They don’t seem to be counted towards the full variety of refugees admitted to the nation and don’t obtain the identical sources or path to citizenship that refugees do.
Vignarajah of LIRS confused the necessity for extra refugee processing officers within the discipline to conduct the mandatory interviews to vet refugees earlier than they can come to the U.S. She additionally advised distant interviews to permit these interviews to proceed throughout the pandemic — an concept numerous companies have pushed over the past yr and a half.
“It bears repeating that refugees make our nation stronger in innumerable methods, and welcoming them embodies the very best of the American spirit,” mentioned Vignarajah.
“We now have a novel alternative to construct again the refugee program to fulfill the unprecedented want — with so many lives on the road, we should seize it.”