Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Brandon SanchezSeptember 20, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about refugees as he makes a statement to the media Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about refugees as he makes a statement to the media Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Sept. 17 that the United States will cap its intake of refugees at 30,000 for fiscal year 2019 was swiftly denounced by humanitarian groups and advocates, many of them Catholic, who said the decision represents an abdication of moral leadership in a world facing the worst migration crisis since World War II.

The Most Rev. Joe S. Vásquez, the bishop of Austin, Tex. and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, lamented the government’s decision.

“The announcement of the Presidential Determination is deeply disturbing and leaves many human lives in danger,” he said in a statement. “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.”

“To cut off protection for many who are fleeing persecution...contradicts who we are as a nation.”

Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy for the Center for Migration Studies and the Scalabrini International Migration Network in New York, in an email to America, wrote: “U.S. refugee resettlement is a life-saving tool that is an important component of our humanitarian protection policies. Reducing the refugee cap to an all-time low leaves tens of thousands of refugees, many whom have gone through the vetting process, in imminent danger.”

Joan Rosenhauer, the executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service, told America that the announcement, while not surprising, signals indifference in the face of an ongoing emergency. “The need is greater,” said Ms. Rosenhauer, “and the U.S. is doing less and less all the time.”

Ms. Rosenhauer raised concerns about both the intake announcement and the data on recent resettlements. “It’s definitely a significant break from the previous administration,” she said, “which was growing the number of refugees that were accepted and welcomed to the United States.” The new cap of 30,000 and the number of refugees resettled in the past year (roughly 21,000) are the lowest since the program was created in 1980.

“Reducing the refugee cap to an all-time low leaves tens of thousands of refugees...in imminent danger.”

Secretary Pompeo said in his statement that “the American people must have complete confidence that everyone granted resettlement in our country is thoroughly vetted.”

The resettlement timeline typically spans two years and is characterized by a multi-pronged vetting process, said Ms. Rosenhauer. The United Nations, the State Department and other governmental organizations are involved at various stages.

“Our perspective is that the vetting process is very robust,” said Ms. Rosenhauer. “It takes years for people to get through it and to be resettled.... It’s impossible to imagine that we need to do more. So much is already done.”

She implored the government to act with compassion. Migrants “have faced incredible threats to themselves and their families,” she said. “Every time I meet a family that has been affected by [violence, war or conflict], I’m challenged to think about what I would do as a mother. And the fact is that I would do what was necessary to protect my children from that violence.”

“The future is going to be grim if we turn our back on children.”

In his statement, Mr. Pompeo assured that these reductions would be tempered by sustained efforts abroad to aid and defend the rights of displaced persons.

“As President Trump established in the National Security Strategy and in his speech last year at the United Nations General Assembly,” he said, “we are maintaining our enduring humanitarian commitments by working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their home countries as possible, thereby increasing the number of displaced people who have received aid and protection.”

This June, the organization Refugees International released a “report card” tracking the administration’s record on migration; it scored an overall grade of F. Domestically, according to the report, asylum seekers have faced criminal prosecution. Internationally, the administration has “proposed cuts of about 30 percent [that] would have dramatically reduced U.S. food aid, ‘zeroed out’ a critical refugee emergency fund, eliminated a key fund used to support programs like UNICEF, and significantly reduced contributions to peacekeeping activities.”

According to Ms. Rosenhauer, the resources that “allowed for very efficient resettling...[are] being undermined now because the numbers are so low.” In the long run, she believes these steps will only weaken the infrastructure already in place to support refugees by chipping away at funding.

Most alarming, said Ms. Rosenhauer, is the trauma left in the wake of unremitting war, conflict and gang violence. Left unsupported, children bear the brunt of these experiences for the rest of their lives.

“The future,” she said, “is going to be grim if we turn our back on children.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Peter Connor
5 years 9 months ago

This is another example of how the president of the United States is playing to the most base human instincts - and he is getting away with it. He gets away with it because we support him by cheering him on or by remaining silent as we don't want to get involved. Sadly, in our deepest gut, we believe what he says about 'the other.' The long term consequences of this person's influence in our existence as a nation are frightening to imagine.

Phillip Stone
5 years 9 months ago

Einstein is quoted as mocking people who fail to achieve some aim and try again using the same methods and expect a different outcome.

With a stolen land and a small population and big dreams and the chance of a new start free of the yoke of the old world, the conquerors of America invited any and all seeking freedom to join them is a new historical experiment.

It built the current USA nation and civilisation and established it as it is today - the rest of the world moved on and the global situation has changed beyond all recognition. It appears the enemy within has been ignored and allowed to grow into a real threat, atheistic materialistic Marxism almost took over the White House and is still a threat.

Meanwhile, a deadly enemy has reborn zeal and threatens the whole world yet again, Islam.
Islam invades by sending little people, apparently inoffensive people, people not seen as any sort of threat and they put down their roots and dig in. Then they subvert little by little.

Responsible government in US needs to drastically alter the conditions of entry of newcomers to their shores, within their communities, amongst their nation's men, women and children.
Perpetual vigilance is necessary to cut off at the roots any Marxist/Socialist corruption of the state and Islamic imposition of sharia preparatory to building it as part of the dreamt-of Caliphate.

The current president can see what is happening, in the guise of charity the nations wealth is being sent overseas to grow, nurture, develop and arm groups who use it contrary to the intentions of the donors, little or nothing actually gets to the poor or displaced.

I have not given a cent to "the Church" or "Catholic charities" for more than thirty years, it is not used in good causes, it does not give glory to God - it is not charity but something else. As is due, I contribute to the support of our pastors and locally do the works of mercy which are none of anybody else's business.
I would withhold tax if I were a citizen in a similar vein under Obama and join a revolution if that Clinton woman had been elected.

Stanley Kopacz
5 years 9 months ago

It's very nice of Bishop Vasquez to say "this contradicts who we are as a nation". But I think these actiond resonates with a large part of what we are as a nation and always have been. Lots of nasty stuff in our history. Maybe the worst is yet to come.

Dionys Murphy
5 years 9 months ago

That's the paradox, Stanley. We are a beautiful nation of immigrants, one that has (except for the Native Americans) become more and more beautiful and prosperous because of those immigrants. This contradicts our idealized image of who we are as a nation, but it exemplifies the dark parts of our history that have always included racism, exclusion and hatred cloaked in nationalism. Let us continue to strive for the ideal, while acknowledging the shadows we hope to conquer and overtake with the light.

The latest from america

In an exclusive interview with Gerard O’Connell, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, one of the synod’s most influential figures, discusses the role of women, bishops and all the baptized in a synodal church.
Gerard O’ConnellJuly 12, 2024
While theatrical and beautiful, I have come to understand that the Mass is not a show. It is a miracle.
Rebecca Moon RuarkJuly 12, 2024
An image from the new Netflix adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
The new Netflix adaptation fails to capture what made the original not only beautiful, but also of great interest for Catholics.
Reed ProctorJuly 12, 2024
“The Godfather Part III” (1990) is the most explicitly Catholic entry in the series.
John DoughertyJuly 12, 2024