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.