National News

Fewer Refugees Impacts Catholic Resettlement Programs in US

By Chaz Muth

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, executive director of Catholic Charities USA, speaks about immigrants and refugees May 4 at All Saints Church in Portland, Ore. “These are our brothers and sisters, not freeloaders,” she told listeners. (CNS photo/Ed Langlois, Catholic Sentinel)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. has drastically cut the numbers of refugees it will accept, causing the reduction and closure of Catholic resettlement programs nationwide.

Nearly 20 U.S. Catholic refugee resettlement programs have closed in the past two years and dozens of others have scaled back their efforts because there are fewer refugees being admitted into the country, said Richard Hogan, director of resettlement services for Migration and Refugee Services, an arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The U.S. State Department authorized the resettlement of 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016.

In fiscal 2017, it authorized 110,000, which began during the last year of the Obama administration. However, the State Department ended up permitting only 53,716 refugees to enter the country by the end of the fiscal year.

President Donald Trump took office three months into the 2017 fiscal year and his administration made it clear it wanted to reduce the number of refugees the country would take in.

The number authorized for admission to the U.S. in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017, was cut to 45,000, but the State Department has admitted only 10,548 in the first six months.

Catholic Charities agencies traditionally resettle roughly 25 percent of all refugees admitted into the U.S. each year and the decreases in numbers have been felt, said Jim Kuh, the senior director of immigration services for Catholic Charities USA.

“There is not a Catholic Charities program that has not been impacted in some way,” said Kuh, adding that the “picture is not a pretty one.”