OPEN LETTER FROM 19 FAITH ORGANIZATIONS EXPRESSING CONCERN OVER FISCAL YEAR 2019 CAPS ON REFUGEES
September 28, 2018
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20500
Secretary Mike Pompeo
Department of State
2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520
Dear President Trump and Secretary Pompeo:
As faith-based organizations who regularly advocate for robust humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance, we write to express our deep concern about the unprecedented low refugee admissions goal of 30,000 that Secretary Pompeo announced the administration intends to set for Fiscal Year 2019. U.S. aid to refugees in other countries, while vital, does not by itself provide the moral example and leadership needed to inspire other host countries. Other forms of aid, which have faced cuts in recent year, are also needed to help alleviate conditions that force people to flee. And America must continue to be a leader in receiving refugees, as we always have, if we want others to do the same.
While the administration set the U.S. refugee admissions goal at 45,000 for FY18, which was a historic low at the time, as of September 20th, just under 21,000 refugees have been admitted. This means that the United States is on track to welcome less than half of the people the administration aimed to admit this fiscal year. The reductions the administration is proposing for FY19 would leave thousands of vulnerable refugees in limbo, and signify an abdication of our nation’s leadership in humanitarian protection.
We are called by our sacred texts and faith values to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Since its inception in 1980, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has been an international model, providing refugees protection with bipartisan support through our public- private partnership. As a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, our nation’s resettlement program represents a standard of excellence that other countries look to as a touchstone for their own policies. It is critical that the United States remain a global leader in addressing the world’s most complex problems. Assistance for refugees overseas, support for refugee-hosting countries, and resettlement are all key components of that leadership.
In addition to its life-saving humanitarian impact, U.S. engagement to support displaced people also serves strategic foreign policy interests that ultimately make this country safer. Refugee resettlement helps foster regional stability, assists close allies that are hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees, and is a diplomatic tool for securing greater humanitarian engagement from other wealthy nations. Refugee resettlement has proven to be an important tool in our foreign policy toolkit.
As Refugee resettlement is the last resort for those who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing violence or for reasons of personal safety, and who cannot stay in the country into which they have fled. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 1.9 million individuals meet these standards and are in need of resettlement this year. Refugees are the most scrutinized travelers to the United States and face the most rigorous screening that someone entering this country must undergo, spending roughly two years in exhaustive vetting processes by our nation’s top security and counter-terror experts.
At no other time has our moral responsibility to uphold these principles been greater. War, conflict, and persecution have forced millions to leave their homes, creating more refugees than at any other time in history. According to UNHCR’s recently released Global Trends Report, more than 68.5 million people are currently displaced, including more than 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are children. In a world where conflict or persecution forcibly displace nearly 30 people every 60 seconds, our nation’s responsibility to protect vulnerable refugees is more important than ever.
Given the many ongoing and emerging displacement crises around the world, we as people of faith are speaking out to urge the United States not to turn its back on these individuals. Refugee resettlement is a critical tool our nation can use to relieve human suffering, and we urge the administration to fully utilize it. As we look ahead to the final weeks of this fiscal year, we urge the administration to commit to resettling at least 75,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2019. Our faith traditions, and our nation’s history, values and capacity as a world leader call for no less.
We pray that in your process of discernment, compassion for the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge you to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection.
- Adventist Development and Relief Agency
- Bread for the World
- Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice
- Church of the Brethren, Office of Peace building and Policy
- Church World Service
- Conference of Major Superiors of Men
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- Faiths for Safe Water
- Food for the Hungry
- Islamic Relief, USA
- Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Mennonite Central Committee, U.S, Washington Office
- Muslim Public Affairs Council
- Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church in North America
- Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness
- The Episcopal Church
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
- United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society