Presbyterian ministries issue statement on 2018 refugee admissions

Concerns raised over proposal to reduce entrance to 50,000 people

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Girls line up before starting school in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan. Opened in July, 2012, the camp holds upwards of 20,000 refugees from the civil war inside Syria, but its numbers are growing. (Photo by Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance)

LOUISVILLE – Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) today, in conjunction with the Office of the Stated Clerk, issued a statement regarding reports the Trump Administration is considering reducing refugee admissions to 50,000 in 2018, the lowest level since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.

Calling on Presbyterians to contact their elected officials, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, said, “Decisions to eliminate entire groups of people from resettlement consideration under the Administration’s current travel ban, coupled with an overall cut in refugee admissions will cause harm to those living in wait and those who might yet find a permanent solution to their displacement.”

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said the current refugee crisis was reason enough not to reduce admissions to the U.S. “Seeking safety and protection is a human right,” he said. “And we as people of faith have a responsibility to care for our sisters and brothers. We are all of God’s children.”

The full statement is printed below:

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We have heard disturbing reports that the Trump Administration is about to announce the lowest refugee admission goals for 2018 since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980. At a time when the world is facing a global refugee crisis of more than 22 million people, a decision to decrease our refugee admissions is a shameful retreat on our humanitarian commitment as a government and a country.

“Now after they [the wise men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod,” (Matt. 2:13-15, NRSV).

The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said, “The Christ child fled as a refugee seeking safety in a foreign land, and his family ran in the middle of the night. As we are facing one of the largest refugee crisis in modern human history, I am appalled that the President of the United States is proposing that the United States receive less than 50,000 individuals. Seeking safety and protection is a human right. And we as people of faith have a responsibility to care for our sisters and brothers. We are all of God’s children.”

The procedures for refugee admissions make it the most complex and vetted program for anyone to enter the U.S. A decision to severely lower refugee admissions will have long term consequences for the refugees themselves and the communities who host them. U.S. resettlement does not operate in a vacuum. When the U.S. agrees to resettle refugees, we not only join a global community of responders, but we also encourage those countries who host the vast majority of the world’s refugees.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is the office of the PC(USA) responsible for the denomination’s humanitarian response to refugees and displaced persons. Through our humanitarian work in the U.S. and abroad, we have met refugees trying to survive in dire circumstances in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, whose resources are strained almost to the breaking point.

The number of refugees that can be admitted to the U.S. in any given year is determined by the President. This number serves as a target for those within the U.S. government and its operational partners to ensure the necessary staff and processes are in place to effectively administer the U.S. resettlement program. Decisions to eliminate entire groups of people from resettlement consideration under the Administration’s current travel ban, coupled with an overall cut in refugee admissions will cause harm to those living in wait and those who might yet find a permanent solution to their displacement.

Members and congregations of the PC(USA) have long partnered with the U.S. resettlement program to help meet both immediate needs as well as longer term integration of refugees. With the growing awareness of the enormity of the global refugee crisis, hundreds of congregations have stepped forward to welcome refugees and to advocate for their well-being. Like the women who wept followed after Jesus on his road to crucifixion, we weep for the deaths, the pain we see, and the suffering we know is still to come as refugees are refused entry to their path to new life.

“John Calvin, the father of the Presbyterian Reformation, was a refugee as he fled persecution of Protestants in 16th Century France. As he guided the Reformation from Geneva, he knew that the church must reach out to and provide protection to the most vulnerable, refugees and immigrants. Presbyterians in the United States have shared a deep history of receiving and settling countless refugee families. We have supported refugee resettlement agencies. We have been key partners in refugee support internationally. Providing for the refugee is integral to our identity. Let us not allow the President of the United States turn its back on refugees during one of the most severe crisis in modern history. Refugees come to this country fleeing violence but bring to this country hope. They enrich us and deepen our faith. They allow us to witness God’s love and mercy first hand. Walking away from them in moments of such desperation is sinful. Let us lift our voices,” Nelson said as a reminder of that rich history of refugee accompaniment.

On behalf of PDA, I call upon all Presbyterian brothers and sisters to let the White House and members of Congress know that the U.S. Government should commit to resettle at least 75,000 refugees in Federal Fiscal Year 2018. Anything less is unacceptable.

Please CALL YOUR SENATORS & REPRESENTATIVES TODAY: 1-866-961-4293
(Please call 3 times to connect with your Representative and both of your Senators)

Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [CITY/TOWN]. I strongly support refugee resettlement and am outraged by reports that President Trump may set the refugee admissions goal for next year at less than 50,000. I urge you to do everything in your power to see that the administration resettle at least 75,000 refugees in 2018. As we face a global refugee crisis with more than 22 million refugees, resettlement strengthens our national security, encourages other countries to keep their doors open to refugees, and advances our foreign policy interests. I call on you to protect the U.S. refugee resettlement program. My community welcomes refugees, and I urge you to reflect the best of our American values of compassion and hospitality.

Send a Tweet to President Trump and your Senators & Representatives: @realDonaldTrump and @[YOUR Senators/Representative] 50k refugees is inexcusable – would be the lowest refugee goal EVER. Stop dismantling refugee resettlement. #WeChooseWelcome #RefugeesWelcome #GreaterAs1

I close with a quote from the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, a contemporary of Jesus, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, then what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance


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