CRCNA Office of Social Justice Statement on Proposed U.S. Refugee Admittance Numbers for Fiscal Year 2020

On September 26, the Trump Administration announced its proposal to set the refugee admittance cap at 18,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 - a historic low. By law, the official determination cannot be made until after the president consults with certain members of congress, which may not take place until mid-to late-October because of a congressional recess. Because the current fiscal year ends on September 30, the refugee resettlement program will be shut down in the meantime.

This decision has immediate, and devastating impact, on real people for whom the promise of resettlement was a beacon of hope. Here is just one example: More than 30 plane tickets have already been cancelled by the federal government for refugees prepared to come to the U.S. in October and be resettled by our partners at Bethany Christian Services. The same story could be repeated for resettlement organizations across the country.

This follows a recent trend of rapidly reducing refugee admissions to the United States, and the subsequent erosion of the infrastructure (agencies, jobs, funding, organizations) that makes refugee resettlement happen. With the historical average capped at 95,000 refugees admitted per year and the number up to 110,000 in 2017, it was dropped to 45,000 in 2018 and 30,000 in 2019. As a denomination long-committed to welcoming refugees in the U.S., we find this decision to be very troubling for multiple reasons.

  1. First, the need for refugee resettlement has never been greater. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 70.8 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes -- the highest numbers on record. Of this number, nearly 26 million are considered refugees, defined by UNHCR as people “who [have] been forced to flee [their] country because of persecution, war, or violence.” Over half of these refugees are under the age of 18. 
  2. Second, until recent years, the United States has been a global leader in welcoming refugees. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 was the first refugee legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, admitting hundreds of thousands of displaced Europeans following World War II. Since then, the U.S. has been consistent in opening its doors to refugees from across the globe. In 1980, Congress passed a bill that ultimately created the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which has brought millions of refugees to safety in the U.S. up to the present time.
  3. Third, as a denomination founded by immigrants, many congregations of the Christian Reformed Church have consistently demonstrated a shared value of supporting and welcoming refugees. Throughout the 1960s, CRC ministries and congregations across North America extended welcome to over 25,000 Cuban refugees fleeing persecution. This tradition of welcoming refugees continues today with CRC members opening their homes and congregations to refugees from Burma, Syria, Congo, and beyond. In West Michigan alone, over 75 Christian Reformed Churches have partnered with Bethany Christian Services to sponsor newly-arriving refugees in the last ten years.

CRC members have shown their welcome of refugees not only through relationships, tangible support, and sponsorship, but also through advocacy. With the assistance of the CRC Office of Social Justice, hundreds of CRC members reached out to their members of congress this summer to urge them to protect the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Scores of CRC congregations signed onto a Church World Service letter to members of congress, state elected officials, and the secretary of state expressing their opposition to shrinking the resettlement program. Additionally, CRC members across the country have been advocating for refugee resettlement in face-to-face meetings with their members of congress in California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Washington DC, and other locations. Our voices, through faith-based advocacy coalitions, have joined a chorus of others for one loud, Christian witness: we must remain a country that welcomes refugees.

According to both scripture and the basic tenets of the Christian Reformed Church, we believe that we have been called by God to show tangible care for those who are vulnerable, including the “stranger” in our midst. Leviticus 19:9-10 states, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.”

In 2010, Synod reaffirmed that the church treat all individuals as image bearers of God regardless of ethnicity, background, or immigration status, and that God’s Word consistently directs us to welcome the stranger and extend special care to the vulnerable. This resulted in the adoption of thirteen recommendations on immigration in the areas of education and awareness, ministry of mercy and compassion, and justice and advocacy. One of these recommendations encourages “congregations and their individual members to speak out against, and seek to reform, laws and practices concerning the treatment of immigrants that appear to be unduly harsh or unjust.”

With these reasons in mind, we oppose the administration’s proposal to drastically shrink the refugee resettlement program; we urge congress to ensure there is a full consultation with the administration on these numbers as soon as possible, and we urge the president in consultation with congressional leaders to raise the number to 95,000 for FY 2020, consistent with historic norms. 

 

Additionally, we ask our congregations in the U.S. to join us in the following:

  1. Using the Office of Social Justice’s action alert, call the congressional leaders with whom the president is required to consult to urge them to protect the refugee resettlement program and welcome 95,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2020.

  2. Pray that this strong ecumenical witness will have an impact on our policymakers. Pray that the Spirit will convict them to take action accordingly. Pray for the refugees who are awaiting their new homes and whose family reunification will be further delayed by both the shrinking of the program and the delay in decision-making on the final determination.

  3. Using the Office of Social Justice’s action alert, urge your state and local elected officials to oppose the executive order announced in tandem with the 18,000 determination that would allow states and localities to deny refugees from being resettled in their communities.

  4. Continue your ministries and relationships with refugees and New Americans, with not only a posture of servanthood, but of learning; God has sent refugees to us - ask God how you can learn from and be changed by them.

  5. In keeping with our God-given calling, welcome refugees in your community by connecting with faith communities and non-profit organizations that serve and walk alongside refugees and New Americans.