Lowering the refugee ceiling would be an abandonment of American leadership

Religious communities built the U.S. refugee resettlement program, long before the government was involved. In the aftermath of World War II and beyond, the faith community in the United States has helped resettle and integrate millions of refugees, embodying the biblical call to welcome. Those efforts brought new life and energy to congregations and communities across this great nation. Refugees revitalized small communities and created new jobs. New friendships and bonds created commitments to building a strengthened and more resilient America. 

Every effort to reduce refugee admissions is an attempt to dismantle a private-public partnership built by people of faith across this country. So last fall, when President Trump set the refugee admissions ceiling at the lowest number it has been since Congress enshrined the refugee resettlement program into law in 1980, Christians have watched and mourned as cruel, fear-based policies have brought refugee admissions to a near halt, denying safety to our brothers and sisters during their time of great need.

{mosads}The administration’s 45,000 refugee ceiling, coupled with multiple halts to the resettlement program and bans on various populations, has meant that tens of thousands of refugees promised protection in the United States remain in danger. When this fiscal year comes to a close in September, we expect the final number of refugees admitted to be less than 22,000. This is morally shameful.

For followers of Christ, the moral response to the global refugee crisis has always been clear. We are called to welcome the stranger, to love our neighbors, to seek justice, to care for the orphan and widow. We are called to have compassion that extends beyond borders. We are called to give of our time and resources to help the suffering and the displaced.

The values of welcome and hospitality are core to what it means to be a Christian and to be an American. Our nation has long been a beacon of hope for families fleeing violence and persecution. The American story was built on the idea that people should be able to live lives free from fear and oppression.

This is why the United States has and must continue to welcome refugee families to our shores to rebuild their lives in safety. We have gladly welcomed them into our communities, into our churches, into our lives, and we have seen how doing so has made our communities vibrant, prosperous and strong.

As the administration considers yet another drastic cut to refugee admissions, it is clear that our government has lost its way. Although cities, towns, communities and congregations across the country are standing ready with open arms to welcome refugee families, President Trump and other decision makers in his administration are carving away at the refugee admissions program while simultaneously destroying other avenues for protection, including temporary protected status and asylum.

These policy decisions do not reflect our values or the values of more than 30 million Americans represented by Church World Service and its members–who wish to live out their faith by sharing their freedom with refugee families and obeying the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself. We have more volunteers and concerned constituents who would like to donate time and resources than we can match with this lowered number of refugee clients.

While tens of millions of refugees are in need of assistance, a refugee admissions cap of 25,000 or lower is simply unacceptable. Refugee resettlement saves lives, encourages other countries to keep their doors open to people needing protection, and promotes regional stability and global security.

With overwhelming support from faith communities around the country, the United States can and should admit at least 75,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019. Anything less is not only an abandonment of American leadership but a moral stain which we cannot abide.

The Rev. John L. McCullough is president and CEO of Church World Service, a faith-based organization that has resettled refugees in the United States for more than 70 years.

Tags Donald Trump refugee ceiling refugees

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