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WASHINGTON, D.C. –President Trump has signed the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for FY2020, setting the annual admissions ceiling for refugees at 18,000 – the lowest number since the start of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in 1980. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is profoundly disappointed that at a time of unprecedented need, the United States would reduce the number of refugees it welcomes.
“America’s legacy as a country of refuge is gravely damaged by this misguided decision to implement the lowest refugee admissions ceiling in our nation’s history,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Future generations will not judge us kindly for closing our Golden Doors to the most vulnerable children and families, the religiously persecuted and military allies who risked their lives to protect our troops.”
In a memorandum for the Secretary of State, the White House established allocations of admissions for each recognized category of refugee. For example, it designates 5,000 admissions for those who have been persecuted on the basis of their religion.
“Our country has already slashed its intake of Christian refugees by 50% and Muslim refugees by 90% since FY2017,” continued Vignarajah, whose organization has been resettling vulnerable migrants in America for 80 years. “Americans of all religious backgrounds are eager to live their faith through welcoming the stranger. This shamefully low allocation robs them of their ability to do so.”
In FY2019 only 30,000 refugees were resettled through the USRAP. The decision to so drastically reduce the number of resettlement spaces contributes to the global displacement crisis and undermines American values and interests at home and abroad.
“Communities of all kinds have historically embraced refugee resettlement – not simply because it is the right thing to do, but also because of the economic benefits that refugees bring,” said Vignarajah, referring to research indicating that refugees contribute $63 billion more in state, local and federal taxes than they receive in benefits.
“For the United States to cut refugee resettlement to half of what it was last year is an abrogation of who we are and all that we stand for as a nation,” said Bishop Michael Rinehart, LIRS Chairman of the Board. “This decision means that thousands of people, including those fleeing violence and war, and those fleeing religious persecution, will continue to be left in harm’s way.”
LIRS and other resettlement organizations have been strongly advocating that the U.S. offer safety and protection to at least 95,000 refugees for the coming fiscal year. This number is aligned with historic averages, and has been supported by Congress and by state and local leaders. It’s also supported by 27 retired senior military leaders who wrote an open letter to President Trump expressing grave concerns about further reductions in refugee admissions.
Historically, the U.S. has been the global leader in offering protection to refugees. At this urgent moment of such disproportionate global displacement, we cannot turn our backs on those who need our help. Rooted in faith, LIRS believes that we are called to welcome those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States.
We call on Congress and the Administration to recognize that our common humanity demands a more robust response. The United States is capable of far more. LIRS, and the communities across the country who partner with us in this work, stand ready to welcome the stranger and treat the sojourner as we would our own citizens, neighbors, and family.
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.