As religious leaders across faith traditions, we urge you to support a presidential determination for refugee admissions of at least 75,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. We are called by our sacred texts and faith principles to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. As Leviticus 19:33-34 reminds us: “Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” Our commitment to offer refuge from violence and persecution requires the moral leadership our nation was founded upon. To restrict thousands of people from seeking safety would be to forsake our nation’s values of compassion, hospitality, and welcome.
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 global history. More than 65 million people are currently displaced, including over 22 million refugees, over half of whom are children. In a world where conflict or persecution forcibly displaces nearly 20 people every 60 seconds, our nation’s responsibility to protect vulnerable refugees is more important than ever. The United States has a longstanding history of supporting and embracing refugees. We must recall that we are a country with a proud legacy of immigrants and refugees who helped found this nation and continue to help it thrive, and we recognize the valuable contributions immigrants and refugees, seeking safety, welcome, and freedom from tyranny and oppression.
The U.S. refugee resettlement program is a historically bipartisan public-private partnership, which has been a critical humanitarian and diplomacy tool for over three decades. As a pillar of our national foreign policy, our nation’s resettlement program represents a standard of excellence that other countries around the world look to as a touchstone for their own policies. Since 1975, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) has safely and successfully resettled over three million refugees from around the world to American communities and is the world’s most thorough resettlement vetting program. Refugees are the most scrutinized traveler to the United States and face the most rigorous screening someone entering this country must undergo, spending roughly two years in exhaustive vetting processes by our nation’s top security and counter-terror experts.
As people of faith and as Americans, we must continue to demonstrate global leadership by offering protection and welcome to refugees, regardless of their country of origin, vulnerability, or religion. Since the program’s founding, the average annual goal for refugee admissions has been 95,000. The FY 2018 President’s Budget Request signals that the administration seeks to reduce refugee admissions next year to 50,000, the lowest goal that the United States has ever seen. Reducing refugee admissions will leave millions of vulnerable refugees who are fleeing for their lives in further danger. It would also hinder U.S. foreign policy objectives, threaten our national security, and undermine humanitarian assistance. U.S. resettlement leverages our overseas diplomacy by encouraging countries to open their doors, ensure refugee children can go to school, and allow refugee adults to work. By abdicating our global responsibility in sharing in crisis, we are also abdicating our global influence and threatening the lives of millions of people.
Refugees are an asset to this country, revitalize our communities, and are powerful ambassadors of our founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and liberty and justice for all. Refugees spend billions of dollars in taxes, drive economic growth, create jobs and start their own businesses, and over time contribute on average more in taxes than it costs for their initial resettlement. Let us open our minds and our hearts to the refugees who are seeking the chance to rebuild their lives and raise a family in safety. Together, we urge you to support a presidential determination for refugee admissions of at least 75,000 in FY 2018.
We pray that in your 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.