Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and other evangelical leaders have spoken out against the Trump administration's recently announced reduction to the U.S. refugee cap.
Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, joined about five other leaders affiliated with the Evangelical Immigration Table in issuing statements responding the 30,000-refugee limit to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in fiscal year 2019 that was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week.
The 30,000-refugee ceiling is a reduction of 15,000 refugees from the 45,000-refugee limit set by the administration for fiscal year 2018 and is the lowest set by any president since the passing of the Refugee Act in 1980. But if 30,000 refugees were to actually resettle in the U.S. next year, it would be an increase from fiscal year 2018, in which just over 20,000 refugees have been resettled with just two weeks left until the new fiscal year (Oct. 1).
The refugee resettlement policies of the Trump administration come as the Obama administration resettled 99,183 refugees in its last full fiscal year in office. Today, there are over 25 million refugees and 68 million people displaced from their homes worldwide.
"Seeing yet another drop in refugee numbers should be a shock to the conscience of all Americans," Moore, an author and former dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said in his statement. "One day we will be ashamed that we as a nation turned inward, and away from our great tradition of serving as a beacon of liberty to those fleeing for their lives."
The 46-year-old Moore admits that it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to take "unlimited numbers of refugees" but asserted that the "increasingly lower number" of refugees being resettled to the U.S. "is far below the level where America could and should be in leading the world in compassion for those in peril."
"As a Christian, I am concerned for the well-being of all those in peril," Moore asserted. "And I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ in the persecuted church, many of whom will be harmed by this closed door."
Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference who has informally advised the Trump administration and prayed at Trump's inauguration in January 2017, also voiced his concern.
"America has long been a beacon of freedom and safety for those fleeing persecution, including many persecuted for their Christian faith, but the proposed cap of just 30,000 refugees would mean stepping back from our historic role of global leadership," Rodriguez, pastor of the New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California, stressed. "We can both be a secure nation and a compassionate nation, leading the world in resettling the most vulnerable refugees who have been identified and vetted abroad and ensuring due process for those who reach our country to request asylum."
Other leaders who released statements through the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical organizations advocating for immigration reform, include leaders from the National Association of Evangelicals, NAE's humanitarian arm World Relief (one of 9 refugee resettlement organizations in the U.S.) and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
According to Galen Carey, NAE's vice president of government relations, more than three million refugees have been resettled to the U.S. since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980. This represents an average of 80,000 refugees per year.
Last month, leaders from Evangelical Immigration Table sent letters to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback to call for a refugee cap of 75,000 in fiscal year 2019.
"This decision contradicts the administration's declared commitment to helping persecuted Christian and religious minorities in dangerous and oppressive countries," World Relief President Scott Arbeiter said in a statement. "Evangelicals should be concerned by this assault against our call to support 'the least of these.'"
World Relief, which has had to shut down several offices and lay off at least 140 employees, and other refugee resettlement organizations have had to deal with the loss of government funding that has come with the drastic reduction in refugee resettlement have been at the forefront of the opposition to Trump's refugee policy.
In announcing the 30,000-refugee cap, Pompeo justified his decision by blaming a backlog of around 800,000 pending asylum cases of people already inside the U.S. that presents a "daunting operational reality" for the U.S. government. Pompeo also assured that the U.S. government would process 280,000 asylum cases of those inside the U.S. in fiscal year 2019.
"These expansive figures continue the United States' long standing record of the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration and assistance," Pompeo told reporters on Monday.
Pompeo assured that the U.S. is "working to assist refugees and other displaced people as close to their home countries as possible."
"The United States is steadfast in prioritizing a course of action that enables the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries if and when conditions permit – a solution that most refugees prefer," Pompeo said. "This strategy reflects our deep commitment to achieving optimal humanitarian outcomes. The best way to help most people is to promote burden sharing with partners and allies, to work to end conflicts that drive displacement in the first place, and to target the application of foreign aid in a smarter way."
The secretary also claimed that there is evidence that the multi-agency vetting process used to screen refugees for resettlement is "defective."