Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2021 / 11:05 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is among the groups praising President Joe Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will accept more refugees in the coming fiscal year.
On Thursday, the White House announced an increase to the refugee ceiling to 125,000 for the next fiscal year. This figure is nearly ten times the number set by the Trump administration, which planned to resettle a maximum of 15,000 refugees for fiscal year 2021. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
“We applaud the administration’s significant increase to the refugee ceiling,” Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at CRS, stated to CNA on Friday.
“By welcoming more refugees, we show the world that we are an open, tolerant nation that protects the vulnerable. Leading by example encourages other countries to be more welcoming as well,” he said.
The refugee ceiling is the total number of refugees who would be eligible for resettlement in the United States in a given year.
In a speech on Thursday at the State Department, Biden announced his executive order “to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need.”
“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged,” he said.
While the Obama administration accepted 85,000 refugees in the 2016 fiscal year and planned to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017, Trump promptly issued a halt to refugee acceptance after entering office; he capped refugee admissions at 50,000 in FY 2017.
With each year of Trump’s term, the U.S. refugee acceptance quota fell, reaching a record low of 15,000 for FY 2021. The U.S. put the ceiling at 18,000 refugees for FY 2020 and only accepted 9,000 refugees due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shortly after his election in November, Biden previewed the refugee ceiling increase in his remarks for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Catholic group Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). Biden stated his intent to multiply “our annual refugee admission target to 125,000.”
The global refugee crisis–especially during the COVID-19 pandemic–is serious and merits U.S. assistance, O’Keefe said.
“As an organization that supports refugees in many countries including Uganda and Bangladesh, we witness the tremendous strains on these families and communities. COVID-19 has made refugees even more vulnerable,” said O’Keefe. “These men, women and children are fleeing war, persecution and extreme violence.”
O’Keefe said that CRS will work to “urge the U.S. government to provide humanitarian assistance overseas and address the root causes of forced displacement, including conflict and persecution,” and that “all tools” will be needed to help the most vulnerable populations.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees also spoke highly of Biden’s announcement.
“The action today by President Biden will save lives. It’s that simple,” said Filippo Grandi on Thursday.
Raising the cap “shows that strength is rooted in compassion,” said Grandi. “It signals that the United States will do its part, as it has historically done, to help the world’s most vulnerable people, including by welcoming them in the United States.”