President Donald J. Trump1600 Pennsylvania Ave NWWashington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump and Members of Congress,
As more than XX religious leaders and XX faith-based organizations across traditions, we write to express our deep concern about the recent report that some Trump administration officials have proposed that no refugees be admitted in Fiscal Year 2020. Since taking office, the administration has already reduced refugee admissions by 75%. To zero the program out completely would be devastating to thousands of refugees who have already been approved to resettle and would destroy the U.S.’s standing on the global stage. We urge the administration to restore the refugee resettlement program to historic norms and commit to resettling 95,000 refugees in FY20 (the historic average).
We are called by our sacred texts and faith principles to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Our congregations, synagogues, and mosques have historically played key roles in assisting refugees with housing, language, employment, and social supports necessary for rapid and effective resettlement into U.S. communities. Yet, our commitment to offer refuge from violence and persecution requires our government to demonstrate the moral leadership upon which our nation was founded.
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. There are more than 70 million displaced persons worldwide, including more than 25 million refugees, over half of whom are children. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that global resettlement needs have doubled in recent years reaching over 1.44 million refugees in 2020.
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. 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. The USRAP has successfully provided more than three million refugees tools for integration and self-sufficiency to start over in safety and our communities have in turn benefitted from these individuals. 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.
People of faith are especially distraught by the implications of low refugee arrivals for particular populations of concern such as families seeking to reunite, religious minorities, and children. Family unity is a cornerstone of U.S. refugee resettlement, given the importance of family values in our country and the crucial role that a united family plays in refugee protection and integration, and it is unacceptable to see families being separated due to U.S. policies. Similarly, we express our deep concern for the impact of low arrivals on religious minorities, including Christians, Muslims, and others who find themselves persecuted because of their religious affiliation and are thus left without options to safely practice their faith. Finally, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) are truly the most vulnerable refugees and as the United States is the only country to operate a resettlement program for these children, low arrival numbers have a unique impact on their options for safety.
Faith communities in particular remain ready and eager to welcome refugees and decry the policies that are preventing refugees from receiving protection at this time. For decades, people of faith have welcomed refugees into our homes, houses of worship, and communities. We know our nation has strong systems in place to process asylum claims at and within our borders, and a strong refugee resettlement program, both of which have existed and operated in tandem for decades. Refugees are powerful ambassadors of our founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and liberty and justice for all. Our experiences working alongside refugees mirror the statistics that demonstrate that refugees bring tangible benefits to U.S. communities by starting businesses, becoming homeowners, revitalizing local economies, and becoming civic leaders.
We urge the administration to reverse course and to commit to resettling 95,000 refugees in FY20. Our collective scriptural mandate and our nation’s history and capabilities as a world leader demand no less.