Lowering Refugee Cap 'Leaves Many Human Lives in Danger,' Warn Bishops

pope francis with refugee rugby team

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Trump administration's deep cutbacks in the annual allowed number of refugees is "deeply disturbing" and "leaves many human lives in danger."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the cap would be slashed to a low that hasn't been seen since enactment of the United States Refugee Act of 1980.

The administration previously lowered the number of refugees admitted from 110,000 when President Trump took office to 45,000, though the number admitted last fiscal year did not near that cap. That is being cut again to a 30,000 cap, Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

Refugee resettlement does not include the number of people reaching America and applying for asylum. Pompeo said 280,000 asylum-seekers are anticipated in fiscal year 2019.

Bishop of Austin Joe S. Vásquez, who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, said that "to cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution, at a time of unprecedented global humanitarian need, contradicts who we are as a nation."

"Offering refuge to those fleeing violence, torture, or religious persecution is a cornerstone of our history," Vásquez said. "We as a country are blessed with vast resources making us capable of securely welcoming those fleeing harm. Closing our doors on those seeking such safety is not who we are as a people."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week that he was angry the administration did not consult with Congress before announcing the cap, as required by law.

Vásquez noted that the bishops "pray that Congress will have the opportunity to engage in the formal consultation process with the administration that is required by law" and said lawmakers "should strongly urge the administration to return to a refugee admission level that reflects local community response and support of refugees, global refugee protection needs, and our long history of compassionately welcoming refugees."

This week was the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration conference in Rome, hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the World Council of Churches.

In an address to conference participants Thursday, Pope Francis noted that "we are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading."

"Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity," he warned, "...all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion."

The pope said that politics suffers from the “temptation of exploiting the fears and objective difficulties of some groups, using illusory promises for short-sighted electoral interests” and said those “who take economic advantage of the climate of distrust in foreigners” should search their conscience, “knowing that one day they will have to respond to God for the choices they made."