Refugee resettlement: both life saving and life affirming

The following is the first installment detailing the upcoming Presidential Determination regarding the number of refugees expected to be resettled in the US in FY 2021. If you would like to learn more about the resettlement process or advocate for a more robust U.S. refugee resettlement program suggestions are provided at the end of the post.

Refugee resettlement: both life saving and life affirming

By Susan Krehbiel, Associate for Refugees & Asylum

The President of the United States is required by law to consult with the Congress on its plans for refugee resettlement by September 30th, at which time he must state how many refugees should be admitted in the coming fiscal year (October 2020–September 2021). On September 1–3, 2020 people of faith and refugee advocates across the country contacted their members of Congress to express their support for refugee resettlement. Working with Refugee Council USA and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, some participated in online meetings with congressional offices while others called and sent emails. You can amplify their voices as we continue to call for meaningful consultations and the restoration of the U.S. resettlement program throughout September.

As people who care about refugees, we must send Congress a strong message that its constituents want to return FY 2021 refugee admissions to the historic resettlement program norm of 95,000, set when the Refugee Act of 1980 was adopted. This is urgent because over the last three years the administration has cut the refugee resettlement goal, known as the “Presidential Determination”, by more than 80% to an all-time low in FY 2020 of just 18,000. Even more troubling, we will not even reach that goal, resettling fewer than 9,000 refugees—only 1/10th of those resettled just four years ago! Our country can—and should—safely resettle more refugees and reunite more families.

If you have ever been directly involved in refugee resettlement, then you know that it is both life saving and life affirming. Life saving for those who are forced to leave their homes find safety in the U.S.; life affirming for those who are privileged to accompany them as they find their way here. Personally, I have found new meaning in being a U.S. Citizen through meeting people who have risked their livelihoods, their public reputation, and even their very lives to stand for the values that we hold so dear: belief in democracy, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Similarly, my understanding of God has been deepened by the refugees I have known who put their faith in God to lead them to safety. Their prayers of supplication for loved ones left behind and their rejoicing in God’s deliverance when they are reunited has given me a heartfelt appreciation of prayer. During these interactions, as I look into their faces, I am reminded of our stance as Presbyterians to uphold the dignity of all persons made in the image of God. Despite having endured more trials and tribulations than I could ever imagine, their eyes offer me reassurance and love. While my experience of refugee resettlement is intensely personal, it cannot be denied that the Holy Spirit moves in, through, and among all involved in the process, transforming lives, forging new friendships, and building new communities.


What can you do to choose welcome in 2021?


  • Read the letter 183 organizations sent to President Trump and Secretary Pompeo
  • Log in to contact your Senators and Representatives about holding the administration accountable to resettling refugees
  • Write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper using the following steps or sample letters you can adapt based upon your own experience. Contact for help.
  • Making refugees feel welcome and helping them find their path to belonging is something we can do every day. Learn some ways you can demonstrate welcome through the PCUSA Welcome Action Guide
  • Learn the basics of resettlement
  • OR Go to the Refugee Resettlement Section of the PDA refugee ministry page

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