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BY REV. NOEL ANDERSEN

September 6, 2019


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Rohingya refugees at a camp in Bangladesh
The New York Times reports on the Trump Administration’s plan to dismantle the US' refugee resettlement program, drastically reducing and even zeroing out refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2020.

Refugee resettlement has historical roots in faith communities welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and has been part of US law since the Refugee Act in 1980. The potential end to the US.Refugee Program has longterm global and domestic impact on the future of migrant protection and democracy.
This is what the LORD Almighty said: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other." But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. - Zechariah 7:9-11

Imagine a world where there is no safe place to flee after you're persecuted because of your religion, culture, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, or political activity. The ancient tradition of offering asylum or sanctuary is at risk domestically and globally. Modern asylum and refugee laws were established in the wake of World War II genocide against Jewish people, and the fear that history may repeat itself is all too real. 

It is a moral atrocity to turn our backs on persecuted people at a time when there are over 25 million refugees, more than at any other time in history according to UNHCR. Yet this administration is preparing once again to slash the program by setting the lowest refugee admissions goal in history, or, worse, zero out the refugee program altogether with the intention of dismantling it entirely.

This New York Times report highlights the likelihood of additional cuts from the Fiscal Year 2019 refugee admissions goal of 30,000, which was already the lowest number in U.S. history. If the administration decides on resettling merely 10,000 or 15,000, they could make the program available only to Afghans and Iraqis who have assisted in the US military.

These administrative actions disregard rule of law, bypass the will of Congress, and erode democracy. The US Congress has continued to show longstanding bipartisan support for the refugee program according to the 1980 Refugee Act, and has currently provided ample funding for refugee resettlement through the appropriations process.

Even as faith communities, business leaders, veterans, military generals and bipartisan elected officials at local, state and federal levels are advocating to the administration to keep a robust refugee program, this administration’s war on all immigrants rages on. The attack on persecuted groups is particularly egregious and a betrayal to anyone who believes the scriptures’ clear call to love our neighbor. These cuts come on the heels of an asylum ban and the new Migrant Protection Protocols that have sent asylum-seekers back to wait in Mexico where they fall victim to cartels looking to kidnap migrants for extortion.

Modern US resettlement of refugees was born from faith communities standing at the harbors, welcoming refugees after WWII and accompanying them in the resettlement process. Over five thousand faith leaders have signed on in support of a strong refugee resettlement program. The light our Statue of Liberty holds has been dampened as this country loses its moral compass, but it has not gone out. It has been passed to each one of us.

As people of faith and conscience who care about refugees, we must make our voices heard and tell the White House and Congress that we welcome refugees into our communities, and that refugees are a critical component to strengthening our communities. Please take action by calling your Senators and Representatives, asking your local and state elected officials to sign on here, and business leaders here.
God of love and liberation, we pray for your guidance and loving presence to be with all refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers who experience the pain of persecution and the struggle of the journey. May your healing spirit bring hope to all those who are waiting in refugee camps, unable to travel through lifesaving programs of refugee resettlement because of this administration’s atrocious policies. We pray that you give us the strength to resist the growing hate in this country. Let the power of God’s love and the power of the people combine to create sanctuary for all. Amen.
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