The US Will Re-Open to Refugees. Is the U.S. Church Ready?


The church has a tremendous opportunity as refugee resettlement is restored.

Though evangelical Christians, like the rest of the nation, were profoundly divided as they went to the polls, President-elect Biden is poised to make changes in one particular policy area— refugee resettlement— that will present an enormous opportunity for the U.S. church, if we have the eyes to see it, can work together and have the foresight to prepare now.

Speaking to a Catholic group this past week, Biden committed to set the annual ceiling for refugee admissions at 125,000. That’s not all that high from a historical perspective: Presidents Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush all set higher ceilings during their respective administrations. But if the Biden administration were able to meet a goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in the coming year, it would account for a whopping 956% increase over the historically-low 11,841 refugees resettled in the federal fiscal year that recently ended.

Actually meeting that 125,000 refugee goal will be difficult. First, contrary to popular misperception, no refugee is resettled to the U.S. without first undergoing a thorough vetting process overseas, which generally takes 18 months or longer to complete. The current administration has significantly cut back on overseas refugee processing, such that the new administration will need to ramp up interviews and processing to ensure people are ready to travel to the United States. With fewer than 125,000 refugees currently in the pipeline, it likely will not be possible to hit that goal, though there will likely be a significant increase.

Equally challenging, the infrastructure for integrating refugees into local communities throughout the U.S. has been decimated. For decades, refugee resettlement has been a public-private …

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