A note from the CEO:
The administration’s decision to set the refugee admissions goal for next fiscal year at 18,000– the lowest level since the start of the modern refugee program in 1980—combined with a new executive order that permits state and local officials to block resettlement in their communities, is a betrayal of American values and represents a colossal failure of American leadership.
The enormously successful U.S. refugee resettlement program is rooted in long-standing American values of hospitality and compassion — in direct response to the Holocaust — and has received significant bi-partisan support for decades through many presidents of both parties. It has been one of the few programs that has united Americans.
In Texas, which ranks No.1 in the resettlement of refugees, refugees have been vital to the state’s economic success and cultural diversity.
Since 1975, the United States has vetted and resettled more than 3 million refugees. These former refugees and their children are now our coworkers, classmates and family members. For nearly four decades, the annual goal has averaged 95,000 refugees. Last year, the administration set an historically low refugee admissions goal at 30,000 – in the face of the worst refugee crisis in global history.
Tragically, the world’s most successful refugee resettlement program is now on course to be dismantled by the Trump administration.
The message of this administration is clear: no one is welcome, no matter how they seek safety, no matter what persecution they face.
The administration has continually and wrongfully justified its abdication of U.S. leadership on refugee resettlement by blaming the number of asylum seekers who are fleeing violence and persecution. But they are demonstrating that their own stated rationale is invalid, as they are turning away asylum seekers.
Bottom line: the announced cut to refugee admissions is rooted not in fact, but in fear — and it does not represent the views of the vast majority of the American people.
The administration’s announced intention to abandon refugees comes despite the worst refugee crisis in history, with more than 25 million refugees worldwide—more than half of whom are children—who are in need of safety and 1.4 million in need of resettlement globally.
Nearly 40,000 refugees are already approved and at various stages in the resettlement process. To reject them, after they have already waited for years to be resettled, would be a betrayal in violation of our values and humanitarian obligations.
We simply cannot turn our backs on those we have pledged to protect. The futures of thousands of families depend on how we respond at this critical moment.
As people who care about refugees, Americans must make our voices heard and tell both the White House and Congress that the new record-low refugee admissions goal is morally bankrupt. We must return refugee admissions to historic norms and set a refugee admissions goal of 95,000. One way Members of Congress can show their support is by co-sponsoring the GRACE Act (H.R.2146, S.1088), which would set the minimum annual refugee admissions goal at 95,000 and ensure greater accountability.
Throughout history, our nation has risen to the call, helping resettle tens of thousands of refugees from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, from Vietnam and Cuba in the 1970s and 1980s, from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and from Africa and the Middle East today. They became productive, working American citizens contributing and strengthening our society. Today, that same call is ringing for refugees from Burma/Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among others.
Isolating ourselves from the world does not make us safer; it only isolates us. Our nation does not back down from what is right because of fear—even if the White House does.
Russell A. Smith, LMSW, is CEO of Refugee Services of Texas