Faith groups and leaders across the U.S. have welcomed the policy change announced by the Biden administration on May 3, which will increase the annual U.S. refugee resettlement quota to 62,500.
After criticizing President Biden’s mid-April decision to leave the reduced refugee resettlement quotas at the levels set by President Trump, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) celebrated the policy change.
“As a nation of immigrants, we have a moral obligation to help our brothers and sisters around the world who are in need. The updated refugee admissions cap is a step in the right direction to help those who need it most,” said Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.
“For decades, the United States has been a leader in refugee resettlement,” he said. “We are in the midst of the greatest forced displacement crisis of our lifetime and know that there are 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.”
“Raising the nation’s refugee cap from its historic low was the morally correct decision and a first step to undoing the prior administration’s xenophobic policy of punitively targeting those seeking refuge in our nation as part of an effort to maintain systemic anti-Black racism and white supremacy,” said Robert S. McCaw, director of the government affairs department for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The American Muslim community is determined to ensure the rights of every immigrant are upheld and our nation remains a place of safe haven for refugees and asylum-seekers.”
Leaders of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) had also lamented Biden’s mid-April decision, with CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley urging the administration “to honor its commitment to increase the number of refugees who may be resettled in this country.”
Following the May 3 announcement, Stephen Reeves, executive director of Fellowship Southwest, who also heads up CBF’s advocacy work, expressed his appreciation for Biden’s decision.
“While we understand the resettlement infrastructure has been significantly damaged in recent years, this should not diminish our resolve to remain a beacon of hope for the persecuted around the world,” he said. “We have the resources; we need the will and political commitment. I hope that welcoming refugees will once again become an issue of bipartisan agreement.”
“No act is more American or more Jewish than welcoming the stranger,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). “We’re excited to see President Biden start to rebuild refugee resettlement. We know there are long months of work ahead to fully restore the resettlement program.”
“As the Jewish refugee organization that has long been the U.S. government’s partner in refugee resettlement, HIAS and our network of partners across the country are ready and eager to help however we can,” he said.
The HIAS press release called this decision “an important step toward restoring America’s tradition of welcoming those in need of safety and leading by example on humanitarian issues” while acknowledging that it is only one part of the process “to bring our refugee admissions system back to full health and capacity.”
C.K. Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, called the decision “a very important moment,” noting that administrations from both parties have, typically, made “robust refugee resettlement an important part of their immigration and foreign policy.”
Demetrio Alvero, director of operations for the refugee resettlement area of Episcopal Migration Ministries, praised the efforts of Episcopalians who urged the Biden administration to increase the quotas.
“We stand ready to work with the administration to implement this new goal and its future efforts to expand refugee resettlement in fiscal year 2022,” he said.
“It has become fashionable to relegate the invitation of the Statue of Liberty to times in the past,” Rabbi Jack Moline told Good Faith Media via email. “‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ seems to offend some segment of our population, as if their ancestors never belonged to that cohort.”
“My family came to this country yearning to breathe free and – this is important – unable to bide their time in a place where waiting was more dangerous than running for their lives,” said Moline, who is a member of GFM’s strategic advisory board.
“I have not forgotten about my ancestors and what risks they undertook for their precious children. Embracing refugees is one of those things that America does better than most. I applaud the president for remembering why the lamp is lifted by Lady Liberty.”
John Dorhauer, the United Church of Christ’s general minister and president, said, “I am so grateful to all who agitated and activated and demonstrated and remonstrated to make this happen. This isn’t justice yet, but it is a big step forward in the right direction.”
“At a time when the world is facing the most significant displacement crisis since WWII, the need for the U.S. to welcome and care for refugees has never been more urgent,” said Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief, a Christian humanitarian organization.
“This new Presidential Determination is a necessary first action, and many refugees’ lives will be changed as a result of the president’s actions today,” she said. “There is much work still to be done to rebuild the resettlement infrastructure and restore refugee processing, but we look forward to partnering with the Biden-Harris administration on this important work.”
In a series of tweets, Matthew Soerens, who serves as World Relief’s U.S. director of church mobilization and as national coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Round Table, praised the quota increase.
Later, Soerens tweeted “an important caveat,” noting that “the US is still on track to resettle fewer refugees this year than ever in the refugee program’s history (including under Trump).”
“We strongly commend the president’s action, laying groundwork for improving our welcome,” The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s advocacy division tweeted. “Courage, struggles and blessings of refugees in our communities make us a strong, more resilient and vibrant nation.”