Trump admin proposes lowering refugee resettlement ceiling to 18,000; Christian groups outraged

A woman and children walk through Khazir refugee camp on April 15, 2017 near Mosul, Iraq.
A woman and children walk through Khazir refugee camp on April 15, 2017 near Mosul, Iraq. | Getty Images/Carl Court

Christian advocacy and humanitarian groups are expressing outrage over the Trump administration’s recent proposal to reduce the refugee resettlement ceiling to the record low of 18,000.

The White House released a fact sheet on Thursday that laid out the administration’s desire to lower the resettlement cap to 18,000 for fiscal year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2020), the lowest it has been since the program was created in 1980.

“This proposed ceiling takes into account the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis on our border and the massive asylum backlog, which now includes nearly one million individuals,” read the fact sheet in part.

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“The overwhelming backlog is completely unsustainable and needs to be addressed before we accept large numbers of refugees.”

The news has garnered opposition from many religious and political groups, including the Christian humanitarian group World Relief.

“We are heartbroken by the devastating ripple effect this drastic reduction in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will cause around the world,” stated World Relief CEO Tim Breene on Thursday.

“If America continues to systematically shutter the program designed to welcome and offer safe haven to human beings made in the image of God, we fear that other countries will continue to follow our example, doing less at a time when the number of refugees in need of protection globally is increasing.”

Breene added that the proposed cut to refugee resettlement “denies safety and freedom to people fleeing religious persecution, war and genocide” and “further dismantles our ability to demonstrate Christ-like hospitality toward the vulnerable.”

Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary for The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, denounced the decision in a statement released Friday.

“At a time when refugees worldwide are seeking safety and security, the decision to further restrict admissions and encourage discrimination is outrageous,” stated Henry-Crowe.

“The Bible calls us to show hospitality to strangers and people in need. (Leviticus 19:33-34, Matthew 25:35, Hebrews 13:2) This action is antithetical to that command.”

Bethany Christian Services, an Christian humanitarian group that specializes on family services, expressed its opposition to the refugee cap, with President Chris Palusky saying it "threatens the lives of thousands of children and families escaping violence and persecution."

"Bethany will do everything possible to advocate for all of God’s children – no matter where they are from or what they have been through – and will continue to serve as many refugees as possible. The lives of millions of displaced children and families depend on it," said Palusky in a statement released Thursday.  

Since taking office, President Trump has overseen reductions in the annual refugee resettlement cap, with FY 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018 – Sept. 30, 2019) having a then record low cap of 30,000.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained in a 2018 speech that the reduced resettlement numbers came because of a “defective” vetting process and backlog of about 800,000 refugees.

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