In a letter delivered to the White House on Sept. 6, 2022, 208 religious leaders and 108 national, state, and local faith-based organizations urged President Biden to set the refugee admissions goal at 200,000 for fiscal year 2023 and to hold meaningful consultations with Congress in support of rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program by October 1st, which marks the end of fiscal year 2022.
September 6, 2022
Dear President Biden,
As 208 religious leaders and 108 national, state, and local faith-based organizations across traditions, we urge you to restore, strengthen, and expand the US refugee resettlement program. Specifically, we urge you to set the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Presidential Determination (PD) at 200,000 by October 1st, and hold meaningful consultations with Congress before the end of FY22 in support of rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Throughout FY23, we urge you to meaningfully invest in rebuilding the resettlement infrastructure to increase refugee arrivals in the United States.
We are called by our sacred texts and faith principles to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Our congregations, synagogues, and mosques have historically played key roles in assisting refugees with housing, language, employment, and social support necessary for rapid and effective resettlement into U.S. communities. Yet, our commitment to offering refuge from violence and persecution requires our government to demonstrate moral leadership.
The world faces its greatest ever displacement crisis, with over 100 million people across the globe having been forced to flee their homes, including over 31 million refugees. As faith communities, we lament the suffering related to mass displacement and remain committed to advocating for welcoming policies. We have welcomed the steps taken by your administration to respond to a number of acute displacement crises over the last year, including Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) and the resettlement of over 80,000 Afghans, and the launch of Uniting for Ukraine (U4U) and the commitment to welcome 100,000 displaced Ukrainians. In the past year, our places of worship renewed our historic devotion to welcome and assisted tens of thousands of Afghans and Ukrainians as they sought safety in the U.S. and settled into communities across the country. Yet the need for broad-based humanitarian protection remains ever-growing. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees projects that in 2023, over 2 million refugees will be in need of resettlement – populations that extend far beyond those to be served through OAW or U4U, and are just as deserving of protection. Moreover, as of June 30th, only 15,100 refugees were resettled in the U.S., accounting for just 12% of the 125,000 refugee admissions goal, with three months left in the fiscal year. It is imperative that the administration continue to resettle as many refugees as possible for the remainder of this fiscal year and urgently address the USRAP rebuild as we plan for the next fiscal year.
Americans' support for the emergency responses in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and the mass mobilization of resources, demonstrates the willingness and desire for the United States to resume its position as the global leader in humanitarian protection. The expansion of community and private sponsorship programs can and should go hand-in-hand with the restoration of USRAP. The refugee resettlement program was created to provide lasting protection for those who have been displaced by protracted conflicts. Prioritizing the restoration and modernization of USRAP alongside complementary and supplemental sponsorship models will strengthen and secure a foundation where all forcibly displaced persons are provided the resources, services, and networks they need to thrive. Additionally, investing in USRAP will ensure that those who have been awaiting resettlement or family reunification for years will have an equitable opportunity to reach safety.
In light of the extraordinary global need, and the United States’ demonstrated capacity to expand welcome, it is imperative that your administration set a robust refugee admissions goal of 200,000 refugees for FY23. Our request for a topline of 200,000 refugees reflects not only the current pressing resettlement needs, but directly speaks to both the origins of the program – when the United States resettled over 207,000 refugees in 1980 – and to our current moment, in which the U.S. government mobilized to welcome nearly 200,000 Afghans and Ukrainians outside of the resettlement program.
We ask your administration to fully reinvest in USRAP as a cornerstone of our nation’s humanitarian protection programs, utilize USRAP as a tool to ensure that global humanitarian needs are addressed with greater equity, and lead the international community in demonstrating welcome. We are called by our sacred texts to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Our places of worship and faith communities stand ready to welcome all in need of refuge.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
The list of signatories is available on the PDF of the letter.
Photo: South Sudanese refugees waiting at a health center at the Maaji refugee settlements in Adjumani district, Uganda, June 14, 2017. Available in the public domain.