Christian groups say 15K cap on refugee resettlement for 2021 is 'unconscionable'

A family of Syrian refugees are interviewed by authorities in hope of being approved for passage to Canada at a refugee processing centre in Amman, Jordan, November 29, 2015. | Reuters/Paul Chiasson/Pool

Evangelical Christian leaders are expressing concerns over the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States to 15,000 next year, saying, “God calls us to love the foreigner and the stranger.”

The administration sent a notice to Congress this week saying it plans to admit no more than 15,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021 — down from the ceiling of 18,000 for fiscal year 2020, according to The Associated Press, which said it was the lowest cap ever put on record.

“As evangelicals, we believe in the God-given dignity of every person in every nation,” reads a press statement by evangelical Christian leaders, including Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, under the banner of the Evangelical Immigration Table.

“We also believe God calls us to love the foreigner and the stranger. Today, that means loving the refugee in our country who has fled violence and persecution in their own country,” the statement adds.

This year, 10,800 refugees were admitted into the country as the administration froze the refugee program in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AP reported.

“The temporary suspension of resettlement travel programs globally will impact the arrival of refugees in the United States and other countries with refugee resettlement programs,” a State Department official told the Daily Caller. “Refugees are subject to the same COVID-19 travel restrictions as other travelers to the United States. The Department of State has no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens.”

The evangelical leaders said the U.S. has resettled over 3 million refugees under the 1980 Refugee Act. “In recent years, however, the United States has not lived up to its ideals, as the number of refugees welcomed into our country has plummeted due to policies that diminished the resettlement process.”

The decision, they argue, “will leave families separated and many refugees in precarious situations across the world.” The statement says that many refugees seeking to resettle in the U.S. are victims of Christian persecution.

“Refugees flee their homes due to well-founded fears of persecution based on race, religion, or nationality. Resettlement is the last resort for refugees seeking safety. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates what was already a historically significant refugee crisis,” the leaders say.

“This drastic drop in refugee numbers should embarrass and dismay us, given the stakes,” says Moore. “Our nation has a great tradition as a beacon of liberty to those fleeing for their lives from terror and tyranny. Persecuted Christians, and others, will be harmed by this closed door. Obviously, we cannot take in unlimited numbers of refugees, but the dwindling number of those we do take is far below the level where America could and should be in leading the world in compassion for those in peril.”

The statement also quotes Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, as saying: “The White House has made explicit promises to protect persecuted Christians abroad. Sadly, we have not seen these promises honored through a robust U.S. refugee resettlement program that has been a lifeline of protection for persecuted Christians. Instead, we’ve seen the resettlement of refugees from countries known for persecution drop about 90% in some cases over the last four years. This is unconscionable.”

World Relief and eight other organizations authorized to resettle refugees in the U.S. have long spoken out against the Trump administration's cuts to refugee resettlement in the U.S.

They want the U.S. to admit 95,000 refugees annually, which is 10,000 more than the highest number of refugees ever admitted in a fiscal year during the Obama administration. However, the 95,000 lower than some of the presidential determinations during Obama's time, such as the determination for the fiscal year 2017 set by Obama in the fall of 2016 at 110,000. 

According to World Relief, the U.S. resettled over 28,000 refugees in 2019, and 22,491 in 2018. 

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