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Biden tells Jesuit group he'll raise refugee ceiling to 125,000 annually

Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders wait to cross into Jordan in this undated photo. |

Presumptive president-elect Joe Biden told a Jesuit charity group that when he's in office, he'll raise the refugee resettlement cap to 125,000 people, reversing a trend among the Trump administration.

Biden spoke of his plans to raise the refugee resettlement ceiling to the highest numbers ever in a video message to the Jesuit Refugee Service on Wednesday in honor of the organization's 40th anniversary.

During his remarks to the JRS, Biden said he believed “every society is ultimately judged by how we treat those most in need.”

“The United States has long stood as a beacon of hope for the downtrodden and the oppressed, a leader in resettling refugees and our humanitarian response,” said Biden.

“I promise, as president, I will reclaim that proud legacy for our country. The Biden-Harris administration will restore America’s historic role in protecting the vulnerable and defending the rights of refugees everywhere and raising our annual refugee admission target to 125,000.”

Biden went on to say that immigrants and refugees “are working on the frontiers of this devastating pandemic, as doctors, nurses, researchers, farm workers.”

“We’re a safer, stronger, better country because of their contributions,” continued Biden. “Together we must all work toward a more resilient, inclusive, and hopeful future for our world.”

Giulia McPherson, director of Advocacy and Operations at JRS, said in a statement emailed to supporters on Thursday that she supported the decision.

“That he chose to make this announcement with us tonight is an indication that Biden is following his faith when it comes to American policy to protect and welcome refugees,” stated McPherson.

“Not only is it exciting that the United States will once again welcome refugees at a historically high number, but it is also significant that we are hearing the president-elect speak in the language of social justice about the rights of refugees and our call as people of faith and as Americans to accompany them to safety.”

Under the Trump administration, the annual rate of resettlement has been lowered every year, with the cap being put at its lowest level last month for fiscal year 2021.

In a memorandum for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released last month, Trump set the ceiling at 15,000 refugees, a record low for a program that has existed since 1980.  

“The admission of up to 15,000 refugees to the United States during FY 2021 is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest,” stated the memorandum.

“This refugee admissions ceiling incorporates more than 6,000 unused places from the FY 2020 refugee admissions ceiling that might have been used if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Many humanitarian groups, including the Evangelical Immigration Table, have expressed concern to the annual lowering of the cap by Trump.

“In recent years, however, the United States has not lived up to its ideals as the number of refugees welcomed into our country has plummeted due to policies that diminished the resettlement process,” they stated last month.

“The United States cannot ignore the needs of displaced people around the world. We urge the Administration to return the refugee resettlement limit to historical levels so America can continue to be the beacon of liberty for all.”

In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.  

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