What is the US limit for refugees? Faith groups react to Biden’s new plan
For the second time since taking office, President Joe Biden has raised the limit on refugees allowed to enter the country. And while faith communities are grateful, they ask for more.
On October 1, Biden raised the refugee limit to 125,000. This is from the 62,000 ceilings announced by the president in May. The Trump administration has set the limit at an all-time low of 15,000.
While leaders of faith-based organizations told Deseret News this week that they welcomed the return to historic standards of refugees admitted to the United States, some felt the number was too low.
“We are pleased that the refugee cap has been raised to 125,000, but as a community we advocated for a cap of 200,000 refugees to reflect global resettlement needs, including for the thousands of Afghans at risk. that we left behind, ”said Jenny Yang, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief.
The Afghans who arrived here as a result of the withdrawal of American troops from that country and a subsequent takeover by the Taliban might not be counted among the 125,000. Afghans are not classified as refugees, but as humanitarian parolees, according to the National Forum on Immigration. Haitian immigrants who arrived in the United States via the southern border with Texas are also unlikely to be affected by the change in the refugee ceiling, the New York Times reported last month.
Noting that there are approximately 20.8 million refugees according to the United Nations, Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of the Jesuit Refugee Service / USA, said: “We were both satisfied and disappointed with this number. … The disproportion between nearly 21 million people and 125,000 is enormous.
Calling 125,000 a “laudable goal,” Yang and others expressed concern about the country’s ability to meet that goal, in addition to resettling humanitarian parolees from Afghanistan.
Explaining that the resettlement program was decimated under the Trump administration, leaders of faith-based organizations said the resettlement network essentially needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.
“There is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done – by this administration, by Congress, by the American public, by relocation agencies. To reach that number, don’t flip a switch and expect 125,000 people to arrive, ”said Melanie Nezer, senior vice president of public affairs for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
The low refugee ceiling under Trump has resulted in low funding for Congress, said Anthony Granado, vice president of government relations for Catholic Charities USA. Now that the refugee ceiling has been raised, Congress must appropriate the necessary funds.
Since refugees are screened abroad before they are even allowed to enter the United States, the government will also need to increase its capacity to process applications and conduct necessary interviews abroad.
Leaders of faith-based organizations have agreed that the need to rebuild America’s refugee resettlement network is symptomatic of larger and enduring problems in the way America handles immigration.
“Our immigration system is fundamentally broken,” said Granado. This not only has an impact on refugees, but also on asylum seekers and other groups of migrants.
“We need to re-establish our asylum process – this is something that was very compromised under the previous administration,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive director of the Jesuit Refugee Service / USA.
Rosenhauer highlighted issues at the southern border that could prevent asylum seekers from living in the United States, particularly Title 42. An obscure piece of public health law that has been dusted off and enforced by the Trump administration to prevent immigrants from crossing the border, Title 42 is used under the current administration to combat the spread of COVID-19 among migrants – depriving people with legitimate asylum claims of enter the country and start the asylum process, said Rosenhauer.
The fact that people have to take a dangerous trip to the United States to seek asylum is one of the many things that need to change in the United States immigration system more generally, said Matthew Soerens, United States director of the mobilization of World Relief churches.
“While we believe it is essential to respect our asylum laws and ensure due process for all asylum seekers, we also believe that there should be more functional avenues for legal migration. accessible closer to home, without the need for the often dangerous journey through Mexico and sometimes several other countries, ”said Soerens. “These legal processes should include a stronger refugee resettlement program for those fleeing a credible fear of persecution, as well as more employer and family sponsored visas for those fleeing economic hardship.
Nezer pointed out that America should implement an immigration system that considers the country’s employment needs with respect to our aging population. “We need to be in conversation with other countries,” she said, adding that Americans need to be in conversation with each other to find bipartisan solutions.
“Unfortunately, our Congress has not been up to the task,” she said, adding that the country needs to have a “real conversation” to “make our immigration laws humane, useful and effective. “.