Leaders of faith-based organizations oppose the historically low resettlement goal for Fiscal Year 2019 and urge the Trump administration to resettle 75,000 refugees.
Responding to Secretary Pompeo’s press conference on September 17, 2018, where he announced the U.S. refugee admissions goal of 30,000 for Fiscal Year 2019, during the worst refugee crisis in human history, members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and the broader faith community expressed their dismay and outrage in failing to welcome the world’s most vulnerable people.Six of the nine refugee resettlement agencies are faith-based and all work with communities of faith, underscoring the deep moral conviction to welcome the stranger and advocate for the vulnerable:
“As a Catholic community who accompanies refugees worldwide, Maryknoll condemns this attack on the refugee resettlement system of the United States. By further slashing our refugee quota and shutting our doors to the most vulnerable, the Trump administration is abandoning the United States’ historic moral vision as a beacon of freedom and hope for narrow-minded xenophobia and fear. The United States can do better. We stand with all people of faith who welcome these families fleeing unbearable violence and death with compassion and open arms.” Gerry G. Lee, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns said.
“The recently announced refugee admissions cap, the lowest in the program’s history, confirms our fears that the United States is shutting its doors at a time when there is a dire need to provide refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution. It harkens back to times when we turned away desperate refugees, including Jews fleeing genocide. Drawing upon our own history of persecution and Judaism’s fundamental belief in ‘welcoming the stranger,’ we urge the Administration to keep America a beacon of hope and a safe haven.” David Bernstein, President and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs stated.
“This refugee admissions goal represents an historic low, is unconscionable during a world refugee crisis, and furthers this administration’s nativist agenda. Within the Jewish community, many of our own families are alive today because of the relatively open immigration policies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And too many Jews died after being trapped in Europe when the borders closed in 1924. Turning away people in need is a dereliction of our moral and legal obligations.” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
“This announcement is nothing short of an all-out attack on vulnerable families seeking to rebuild their lives in safety. Setting the refugee admissions goal at 30,000 – an historic low – is an affront to the countless American communities who have welcomed refugees and understand that they are valuable members of their cities and towns. We urge President Trump to hear the calls of people of faith across America who demand that the United States continue to remain a beacon of hope for refugees forced to flee for their survival, and to resettle at least 75,000 refugees in FY 2019.” said Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service.
“The true values of a community are reflected in its actions. We must increase our resettlement goals, not limit them. We must offer a helping hand, not turn back the most vulnerable and desperate families. Anything less than 100,000 in this time of great need around the world is shameful.” Colin Christopher, Director, Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America, said.
“As Catholics and Franciscans, we believe in the message of Pope Francis in his address to Congress. He talked about the magnitude of the current refugee crisis in our world today and that instead of concern over the sheer number of refugees, instead we need to view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories. As a nation of immigrants, we must open our doors to refugees who are escaping war and persecution. 30,000 refugees is too low a number when we are facing this historic crisis. It is imperative that we translate these words into action on behalf of refugees and ask for 75,000 people resettled at minimum.” Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network, said.
“Quakers have long advocated that we must welcome refugees. It is our moral responsibility and opportunity to care for and protect one another. Children and their families are among those refugees who are desperate for security and freedom; the people of the United States have the ability to open our hearts and our communities to help. We will faithfully work to reverse course.” said Diane Randall, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
“The recently released refugee admissions target confirms our fears that it goes even further than last year’s historically low figure. The world is facing the worst refugee crisis in history, but President Trump, driven by hard liners like Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller, continues to pursue a nativist, xenophobic agenda. As Jews, we know all too well the consequences of turning away families seeking refuge in our nation. We demand the President resettle all planned 45,000 refugees from this past year, and commit to resettling at least 75,000 refugees next year.” declared Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.
“The United Church of Christ feels a strong call to serve the refugee among us. We have long participated in ministries to, with, and for refugees around the globe. Our engagements with refugee families and communities have consistently led us to feel deep compassion for those who must flee intolerable circumstances. Their stories of courage, of suffering, and of hope both inspire us and challenge us. The challenge we hear is not simply to attend to their immediate need, but to eradicate the causes which have them fleeing their homeland in the first place. I have personally met with refugees in and from many parts of the world. They place immense trust and hope in discovering new homes in new nations where they and their children will be loved and cared for. It was always a source of great pride to me that America was one of those places they knew they could find such love. I fear that may no longer be the case. I call upon people of good faith and compassion to rehearse again the grand narrative inspired by our Statue of Liberty, upon whose pedestal we find these words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” I pray every day that we choose again to be this America.” Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ said.
“The Trump administration’s continuing attempts to dismantle the U.S. refugee resettlement program in the face of an unprecedented global refugee crisis is unconscionable. More than 65 million people have been forced from their homes.They are quite literally fleeing for their lives. The United States has a long history of welcoming refugees and women religious have been blessed to be able to accompany refugee communities. We strongly object to President Trump’s attempts to limit our ability to heed the scriptural command to welcome the stranger and care for the foreigner. We urge President Trump to reconsider and set the refugee admissions goal for FY19 at 75,000.” said Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
“As one nation under God, we have a duty to humanity we must uphold,” said Gurvinder Singh, Director of Global Humanitarian Relief, UNITED SIKHS. “Refugees of all faiths around the world are looking to us for shelter from religious persecution and a right to life. These are the values our great country was founded upon, and these are the same values we must continue to uphold by welcoming refugees with compassion, not criminal processing, to address this humanitarian crisis. All faith communities stand united — life is precious, and we are ready and eager to welcome 75,000 refugees in FY 2019 with open arms.”
“The recently announced refugee admission target is chillingly reminiscent of some of the worst chapters of our nation’s past. UUSC was founded to aid refugees escaping Nazi-occupied Europe in 1939 – a time when our government was turning away Jewish refugees from our shores. History has shown time and again the deadly consequences of closing our borders to people fleeing danger. It is particularly disgraceful for the United States to turn its back on vulnerable refugees when our government is fueling human rights violations in Yemen, Honduras, and elsewhere that are forcing many from their homes. The first principle of Unitarian Universalism is to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people, the foundation of which is the human right to survive. We join in calling our nation to live by its best and most honorable principles by devoting resources to the furtherance of life, not the machinery of death.” urged Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
“When people are in crisis, faith compels us to provide hospitality to them. Turning away refugees fleeing violence is unconscionable and cruel, especially when there are so many houses of worship ready to take them in and provide life-saving help to them.” said Jim Winkler, General Secretary/President, National Council of Churches
“Compassion and care for the refugee has been central to the faith of Christians, Jews, and Muslims from their inception. It is both cruel and tragic that the Trump Administration wants to drastically reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States. All people of faith and of moral conscience must object forcefully to such actions. As Christians, we believe that when we close our hearts to refugees, we are closing our hearts to Christ himself.” Bishop W. Darin Moore, Presiding Bishop, Mid-Atlantic District, AME Zion Church – Chair of Governing Board for National Council of Churches said.
“Pax Christi USA is proud of a country which was built, survived and thrived due, in part, to the welcome and work ethic of our immigrant brothers and sisters. Sadly, the values which the US stood for are no longer operable when a president continues to limit access to the freedom from fear and death as experienced by our refugee and immigrant people seeking a home here. It is making a mockery of the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty.” Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA said.
“The Church of the Brethren has long urged support for the refugee community, and we are saddened to hear that the administration has once again cut back on their target resettlement numbers. If our communities truly want to seek peace and justice, we must do so in a way that recognizes all of the ways that peaceful living manifests itself. This includes recognizing God’s call for us to care for those fleeing violence, oppression and disaster in their home countries, and we urge our government to put policies in place that allow those seeking refuge to join our communities.” Dr. Nathan Hosler, Director, Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy said.
“Catholic Social Justice mandates that we welcome the stranger. Jesus taught, ‘whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ The Trump administration’s latest attack on the refugee resettlement program is so shameful. Refugees are fleeing violence and persecution. We must act with love and compassion. The Trump administration acts with callous disregard for vulnerable people. The faith community knows we are better than this and is ready and eager to welcome many more refugees. We call on the administration to open our doors to 75,000 vulnerable refugees in FY2019.” Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice said.
“A policy admitting fewer refugees into the United States is tantamount to slamming a door in the faces of people fleeing unimaginable violence and hardship. As a denominetwork of Christians and churches committed to loving our neighbors, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministers to migrants around the globe and here at home. The administration’s move to dismantle the U.S. Refugee and Resettlement Program runs contrary to the history of this great nation as a beacon for all of those seeking safety and freedom. We’re strong enough to maintain security and show compassion. Christians must raise a united voice to oppose this callous decision.” Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship declared.
“The Alliance of Baptists decries the decision of the current administration to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States to an all-time low. Instead, the Alliance supports a robust refugee resettlement program of welcome and hospitality, and we are ready to do everything in our power to restore and maintain welcome to people fleeing life-threatening adversity, with no regard to where they are from, how they pray, the color of their skin, or what language they speak.” Paula Clayton Dempsey, director of partnership relations, Alliance of Baptists said.
“The Trump administration is continuing to enact the xenophobic and nativist agenda of drastically restricting legal and illegal immigration – this time by severely limiting the number of refugees the United States will allow in during the next fiscal year. Refugees come to the U.S. fleeing violence and persecution in the hopes that America would offer them sanctuary – a place where they could find safety and find new opportunities for their families. Closing our doors to refugees is not only an affront to American values but contradicts core Christian beliefs. Responding to the Biblical call to welcome and care for the stranger, it is imperative that the U.S. accept at least 75,000 refugees during Fiscal Year 2019.” Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners said.
“The United States cannot stand idle while a global refugee crisis worsens. With over 65 million people displaced, to even entertain welcoming just 30,000 people over the next year is a moral failure.” Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life said.
“President Trump is irreparably damaging this nation of immigrants by slamming the door in the face of people seeking safe harbor while fleeing torture, rape, terrorism, war and poverty. I pray that this Administration will find the heart to reverse this immoral decision to severely cut the number of refugees that our country will admit.” Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture stated.
“With two million more refugees in the world this year than last, our nation should be resettling at least 75,000 refugees, not backtracking from our historical commitment to welcome any lesser number. God’s mandate to love the vulnerable and sojourners was repetitive, and Jesus’ own experience fleeing violence and danger made possible a world transformed by grace and compassion. Our congregations, and refugees themselves, remain ready for our healing and transformative welcome today—and we will not stay silent if our nation squelches our value of hospitality or denies our opportunity to lead the world in resettlement.” Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. & Canada said.
After resettling fewer than half of the 45,000 refugees pledged this year as the 2018 fiscal year draws to a close, faith leaders from many different traditions urge the administration to reverse course. Communities of faith call on the administration to restore a robust refugee admissions goal of at least 75,000 in FY 2019 and urge Congress to decry an immoral admissions goal of only 30,000 refugees and weigh in with the administration directly.
Photo: Refugees at Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda where Maryknoll Fathers John Barth and David Schwinghamer work. Photo courtesy of Maryknoll Magazine/Sean Sprague.