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USCCB Applauds Biden’s Decision To Raise Refugee Cap to 62,500

Syrian refugees wait outside their shelters in late January 2018 at Zaatari camp near Mafraq, Jordan. They were waiting for the U.S. to accept them into a U.S. refugee resettlement program. (Photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

‘A crucial step toward rebuilding the crippled’ refugee program

MANHATTAN — President Joe Biden officially raised the refugee admissions cap for the fiscal year that ends September 30 to 62,500, touting it as an essential — if currently unachievable — step for his administration to take.  

“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the mind of refugees around the world who have suffered so much and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Biden said in a statement on Monday, May 3.

“We are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission,” the president continued. “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year.”

A 62,500-refugee cap is half of the 125,000 admissions Biden promised during his presidential campaign. 

A day after the announcement, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, called the updated refugee admission “a step in the right direction for those who need it most.” 

“This increase was a crucial step toward rebuilding the crippled Refugee Admissions Program,” Bishop Dorsonville said in a statement. “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.” 

Bishop Dorsonville also noted that “we are in the midst of the greatest forced displacement crisis of our lifetime,” citing more than 26 million refugees worldwide and more than 47 million people who are internally displaced. 

“It is imperative that we act now to ensure the safety of these individuals and their families,” the bishop said. 

In Monday’s statement, the president noted that the new 62,500 number reinforces the administration’s efforts to reach 125,000 admissions in Fiscal Year 2022. However, the president admitted that, like the new cap announced Monday, the goal of 125,000 also might not be met.

“That goal will be hard to hit. We might not make it the first [full fiscal] year,” Biden said. “But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries.”

Last month, Bishop Dorsonville was one of many who criticized the president after he announced that the current historically low refugee admissions cap of 15,000 set by the Trump administration would not be increased because of the present situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, a day later, Biden backtracked and said it would be raised, which happened officially on Monday.

At the time, Bishop Dorsonville said in a statement that the 15,000 cap was “far short of what we can do as a country and is not an adequate response to the immense resettlement need.” 

Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service USA, part of the broader Jesuit Refugee Service, applauded Monday’s announcement.

“We applaud President Biden for following through on his commitment to increase refugee admissions,” Rosenhauer said. “This will serve as a critical down payment for increasing the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2022.”