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Catholic Church resettles nearly 18,000 refugees in 2008

Largest Resettlement Effort in United States

The Catholic Church resettled 17,823 refugees in 2008, through Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS) and its network of diocesan entities, representing 30 percent of the total refugees admitted to the nation. Overall, the U.S. government admitted 60,192 refugees during the fiscal year that ended September 30.

This number represents a 31 percent increase over last year in the number of cases handled by MRS. In 2007, MRS resettled 13,631 of 48,281 refugees or 28 percent of all refugees admitted into the United States.

Generally, the largest percentage of refugees arrive in the United States during the last three months of the federal fiscal year, July thorough September. This so-called "bulge" creates an enormous impact and strain on the service capacity of receiving dioceses.

"Despite this situation, the diocesan staff, parishes, and other community entities involved in their resettlement once again went above and beyond the call of duty to help refugees build new lives," said Johnny Young, executive director of MRS.Â

In 2008, MRS resettled people from 45 countries. The largest groups came from Burma, Iraq, Cuba, Bhutan, Burundi, Somalia, Iran, Vietnam, Congo, and Liberia.

The Church is especially proud of its "Unaccompanied Minor" program. Ten dioceses -including Galveston-Houston, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; Miami, Phoenix, Richmond, Va.; Rochester, N.Y., San Jose, Calif., Salt Lake City, Seattle and Syracuse, NY-found foster care placement for 190 unaccompanied children, plus 43 other children that have not yet arrived on U.S. soil. This was well beyond the 50 children expected in a typical year.

"Both of these situations provide a strong testament to the Church's unwavering commitment to welcome the newcomer regardless of the circumstances that bring them to our land," Young said. USCCB has consistently advocated for increasing the number of refugee admissions into the United States.

Refugee arrivals to the United States have been on an upward trend for the past several years, after coming to a significant reduction in refugee admissions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. All indications are that the next fiscal year will continue this trend.