US bishops say reported shutdown of refugee program is ‘disturbing’

US bishops say reported shutdown of refugee program is ‘disturbing’

By Catholic News Agency

July 23, 2019

Washington D.C.

If reports of major cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum programs are true they are alarming, the chair of the US bishops’ migration committee said Friday.

Politico has reported that officials in the Trump administration were considering cutting the annual refugee cap next year to zero, or to greatly reduced numbers such as 10,000 or 3,000. This represents the total number of refugees that would be allowed into the United States in the next fiscal year.

“This recent report, if true, is disturbing and against the principles we have as a nation and a people, and has the potential to end the refugee resettlement program entirely,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin said July 19..

The reports were leaked to Politico from three individuals close to recent meetings of security officials.

These numbers would represent a dramatic decrease from this year’s cap of 30,000 refugees. In 2018, the cap was 45,000, and in 2017 it was 50,000. According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, reported by the Washington Post, prior to Trump’s presidency, the immigration cap has typically been set, since the 1990s, between 70,000 and 80,000.

Vasquez said he was concerned by the reports of cuts to the refugee cap when “the world is in the midst of the greatest humanitarian displacement crisis in almost a century.”

“I strongly oppose any further reductions of the refugee resettlement program,” he said. “Offering refuge to those fleeing religious and other persecution has been a cornerstone of what has made this country great and a place of welcome. Eliminating the refugee resettlement program leaves refugees in harm’s way and keeps their families separated across continents.”

Vasquez noted that refugees already undergo an intense vetting process that often lasts between one and a half to two years, and includes extensive interviews and background checks.

“Many of these refugees have familial ties here and quickly begin working to rebuild their lives and enrich their communities,” he added.

“As Pope Francis has said we must work for ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of indifference. Rather than ending the program, we should work instead to restore the program to its historic norms of an annual resettlement goal of 95,000,” Vasquez concluded.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration published a new regulation for asylum seekers, which states that people seeking asylum in the U.S. must prove that they also sought protection in at least one other country that they passed through in order to get to the U.S.

The move appears to be targeted at the wave of migrants from Central American countries, who pass through Mexico in order to get to the U.S. border.

Trump has made increased immigration restrictions and regulations a cornerstone of his 2020 presidential re-election campaign.

The final cap for refugees for the 2020 fiscal year will be announced in September.