243 Faith Leaders Call on President Trump to Welcome 95,000 Refugees as Deadline for Admissions Ceiling Looms
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Washington D.C. – Today, 243 faith leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) expressed their strong support for resettling more refugees in Fiscal Year 2021 in a letter sent to President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The letter, spearheaded by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the United States’ largest faith-based organization exclusively dedicated to serving immigrants, urges the President to raise refugee admissions to at least 95,000 in the coming fiscal year.
“As people of faith, we believe that we must honor the dignity of every human, regardless of national origin,” reads the letter. “We have a commitment to follow the teachings of Jesus and to uphold our nation’s tradition of protecting the persecuted.”
Despite an unprecedented refugee crisis that has displaced nearly 80 million people worldwide, President Trump slashed the refugee admissions goal to 18,000 last year, the lowest in the history of the resettlement program. In terms of the actual number of individuals admitted, the administration is far off track to meet this goal, having only resettled 10,845 refugees as of Sept. 24, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
“Our nation’s once pristine reputation as a place of refuge for the oppressed and persecuted of all faiths has been gravely damaged,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and a former refugee from Sri Lanka. “I question if my own family would be welcomed and embraced in America today were we fleeing the ethnic and religious persecution that drove us from our home.”
Refugee resettlement in the U.S. is largely executed through public-private collaboration between the federal government and nonprofit organizations, with six of the nine national resettlement organizations being faith-based. The letter stresses the long history and importance of religious communities, particularly Lutheran congregations, in carrying out the work of welcome.
“The Lutheran legacy of courageous and compassionate service has made a difference in the lives of half a million people who have sought safety and hope in America’s communities,” continues the letter. “Our congregations have historically played key roles in assisting refugees with housing, language, employment, and social supports necessary for their integration into our communities.”
The letter is signed by 243 faith-leaders in the ELCA, including 27 bishops and Charlotte Haberaecker, president & CEO of Lutheran Services in America, one of the largest health and human services networks in the U.S. The letter closes with a call to establish a new refugee admissions ceiling of at least 95,000 refugees, required by law to be set by the start of each fiscal year, beginning on October 1st.
“We have seen refugees work hard, become self-sufficient and become cherished friends, family and neighbors who enrich our lives and strengthen communities and the fabric of our nation,” it concludes. “We hope you will support refugees now and in the future by resettling at least 95,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021. To restrict thousands of people from seeking safety would be to forsake our nation’s values of compassion and welcome.”
Read the full letter here.
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.