USCCB News Release
March 17, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
USCCB Marks Refugee Act Thirtieth Anniversary, Catholic Church Commitment To Refugees
WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the largest resettlement organization in the United States, on March 17, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act.
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration explained the impact the landmark legislation.
“The 1980 Refugee Act reinforced the U. S.’ commitment to those fleeing persecution by offering them an opportunity to start their lives anew and enabled the United States to serve millions in need,” he said. “USCCB Migration and Refugee Services is proud of this history and our long-standing commitment to serve refugees.”
The United States has long been a safe haven for the oppressed of the world. Millions of refugees and other vulnerable populations look to the U.S. as their last hope when fleeing persecution. The United States has responded with humanitarian intervention. The 1980 Refugee Act codified this commitment to the protection of refugees by allowing the admission of refugees on a systematic basis for humanitarian relief and by standardizing the resettlement services for all refugees admitted to the U.S., with the goal of facilitating their achievement of economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible.
Prior to its enactment, the United States admitted refugees and other immigrants seeking a safe haven but there was no systematic admissions policy or service coordination. The Refugee Act of 1980 established a standard for the admission and resettlement of refugees, including the adoption of the United Nations definition of “refugee,” establishment of admissions criteria, processes and structures, the designation of refugee as an immigration status, conferring unique benefits and status, and federal fiscal support and domestic resettlement programming. It also established the U.S. asylum program.
The Catholic Church also has a long history of commitment to those seeking a safe haven from persecution. Since the beginning days of this country, the Catholic Church in the United States has assisted immigrants and refugees, and continues to do so by helping newcomers resettle and start a new life. This commitment is rooted in the Gospel mandate that every person is to be welcomed as if he or she were Christ Himself and in the right of every human person to a life with dignity.
USCCB/MRS responds to the plight of refugees from around the world and actively advocates for and coordinates their resettlement in conjunction with the local Church. In partnership with over one hundred local Catholic Charities organizations and dioceses across the country, USCCB resettles well over a quarter of the refugees admitted into the country each year. Since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, the U.S. has admitted over 2.5 million refugees from all over the world. During these 30 years the Catholic Church has resettled over 800,000 of them, or 32 percent.
MRS will continue to advocate to improve our nation's refugee protection regime and response to refugees worldwide. Anastasia Brown, director of Resettlement Services for MRS said: "While we have come a long way in 30 years, there remain millions of refugees who live in danger and deserve stronger protection. As a leader in humanitarian relief, the United States must continue to take the lead in this global effort."
For more information on refugee resettlement, the Church’s role and other MRS programs, visit http://www.usccb.org/mrs/index.shtml.