In 2019, elected officials, congregations, and business leaders across the country have been showing their support for refugee resettlement by writing letters to the administration. Explore the map to learn more, and find full copies of the sent letters by following the links below:
Washington, DC — On Friday, August 23, shortly following its announcement by the administration, a new rule that would amend the decades old Flores Settlement Agreement was published in the Federal Register. Flores sets forth a framework and critical protections related to the care, custody, and release of immigrant children who are held in federal custody. Contrary to claims by the administration, this rule will be devastating for migrant families, in part because it will allow for the indefinite detention of children and will undermine the critical child protection standards set forth in Flores.
RCUSA Chair Bill Canny responded to the news:
“The long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement is essential in upholding our standards of protection and care for one of the most vulnerable groups – immigrant children. We have a responsibility to those being held in the custody of the United States to ensure their well-being. Prolonged detention should not be part of that care. And this new rule, which would erode existing protections for children, is harmful and unacceptable.”
Media contact: Sarah Seniuk email@example.com
WASHINGTON, DC – On August 21, NBC reported that the administration is considering a policy that would give states and cities the ability to veto the resettlement of refugees in their communities. Current resettlement policies help assure that states and local communities are active, indispensable partners in the resettlement process. Refugee placement, however, has always been under the jurisdiction of the federal government, given their exclusive authority over foreign and immigration policy.
If press reports are accurate, the proposed policy would be inconsistent with the Refugee Act of 1980 and even the US Constitution. It would not only seek to prevent the initial resettlement of refugees, but, if taken to its logical conclusion, would require restricting their freedom of movement, and could more broadly impugn the right to freedom of movement of other individuals in the United States – a right held by all legal residents.
Such a policy would improperly disrupt the refugee resettlement program – an important public-private partnership – from carrying out its crucial humanitarian responsibility of protecting refugees and reuniting refugee families. It would instead risk leaving those seeking protection in harm’s way, and deprive local US communities of the benefits that refugees bring to the towns and regions in which they resettle, and the opportunity to welcome refugees.
Bill Canny, RCUSA Chair, issued the following response:
“The United States has long stood as a global leader on the protection of refugees. RCUSA urges the administration to uphold and reaffirm this responsibility by abandoning this proposed policy change. ”
Media contact: Sarah Seniuk firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, 172 local, state, and national organizations sent a joint letter to Secretaries Pompeo, Azar, McAleenan, and Esper, urging them to set the Presidential Determination for fiscal year 2020 to 95,000. This number honors the historic averages of resettlement in the US, and solidifies our position as a leader on these issues.
Recording of the call is available here.
Washington, D.C. - Former refugees, advocates, and experts gathered today for a press call in response to reports that the Trump administration is planning to zero out the refugee admissions program. Below are key quotes from the call, and a recording can be found here.
Bios of former refugees who are available for interview are also below. Please email email@example.com to arrange an interview.
Anne Richard, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (2012-2017):
“We have a treaty commitment to give sanctuary to people fleeing persecution. We are a country turning our backs on the post WWII commitments we had made when we realized we made a mistake turning away those fleeing the Nazis. Today, we are building walls and insulting the countries they live in and hardening our hearts against those in need.”
Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First and Former Army Officer: “Ronald Reagan must be rolling in his grave. These are essential national security and foreign policy tools and provide a lifeline for US allies including Iraqis who risked their lives for us. We promised those folks we would guarantee their safety and take care of them. That’s why Secretary Mattis spoke out against a similar policy and many in the military will oppose this policy. It’s hard to have allies when the world can’t trust you. Who would follow a leader that doesn’t do any of the work?”
Salemu Alimasi, former refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo and resettlement caseworker:
“At 6 years old, war broke out in my country, and I became a refugee. My childhood was stolen from me. My life was spent running from war and in a refugee camp. My father was a human rights activist and was targeted, so had to flee for a second time. What I’m hearing now makes me very sad. Refugees are not illegal. They are people in need. No other country can do refugee resettlement better than America. We should stand for those in need.”
Jen Smyers, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Church World Service:
“This is out of step with our values and morals as a country. It contradicts the commitment the U.S. has made to protect religious communities. We appeal to anyone in the administration who professes to be a person of faith and to recall our basic commandments to ‘welcome the stranger.’”
Refugee Leaders Available for Interview (please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview):
Aden Hassan - Somali refugee who now resides in Columbus, Ohio. After escaping the violence in Somalia at age 5, he and his mother lived for nearly 20 years in a refugee camp in Kenya. Both were approved to resettle in the U.S. Aden arrived on January 20th 2017, and his mother was due to arrive shortly after. However, due to Trump’s first Muslim and refugee ban, she did not make it. Aden is quite worried about her, as she has a heart condition and diabetes, and he was previously responsible for taking her to medical appointments.
Dr. Mohamoud Saed - Based in Atlanta, Dr. Saed is a Somali pediatrician and refugee with kidney failure. He waited years for his wife and eight children to join him in the U.S. from Ethiopia, where they have been waiting since 2011. His family was split up to be resettled, and he was finally reunited with some of his children in 2017 and 2018. However, his wife and three children remain on hold with no indication of when they may be able to travel. Dr. Saed doesn’t have the luxury of time to wait, as he undergoes dialysis three times a week, leaving him too weak to cook or work. His hope is that one of his family members might be able to save his life by serving as a donor for a kidney transplant. Congressman Hank Johnson’s office is looking into options to help.
Afkab Hussain - Afkab is a Somali refugee who now resides in Columbus, Ohio. During the many years it took for his refugee case to be processed, Afkab met the woman who would become his wife and got married in a refugee camp in Kenya. He was approved for resettlement and came to the U.S. and immediately applied for his wife and their newborn son through following-to-join petitions, which were approved. However, Afkab's wife and son have been blocked from coming to the United States to join him due to the multiple refugee bans. Afkab is a plaintiff in the class action lawsuit challenging the administration's refugee and Muslim ban.
Ramez Alghazzouli - A former refugee from Syria who resides in Arizona. He has been unable to reunite with his Syrian wife, who currently lives in Turkey, for over three years.
MEDIA ADVISORY: TODAY Friday, June 19 2019 at 1:00PM
Contact: Mary Elizabeth Margolis, email@example.com
Media Briefing Call: Experts Respond to Threat to End Refugee Resettlement
Washington, D.C. Today at 1:00 PM EDT, refugee advocates and policy experts will host a media briefing conference call to respond to new reports that some administration officials have proposed resettling zero refugees in Fiscal Year 2020. This news comes as the administration has simultaneously moved to virtually block access to asylum at the southern border--signaling the administration’s intent to block all refugees from accessing protection in the U.S.
Experts will address false claims made by the administration to attempt to justify a zero admissions ceiling--demonstrating that the United States has the capacity to easily resettle at least 30,000 refugees in FY20 while also continuing to preserve access to asylum. They will outline the detrimental impact that this refugee ban would have on U.S. national security, foreign policy, American communities and the thousands of refugees the U.S. has pledged to protect--including U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and persecuted religious minorities.
WHAT: Media Briefing Call: Experts Respond to Threat to End Refugee Resettlement
Anne Richard, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (2012-2017)
Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First and Former Army Officer
Salemu Alimasi, former refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo and resettlement caseworker
[Moderator] Jen Smyers, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service
WHEN: Friday, June 19 at 1:00PM EDT
WHERE: Participant (public): 877‑876‑9173; Passcode “REFUGEE”
As Trump Attempts to Shut Down the U.S. Asylum System, Some Officials Propose Ending Refugee Resettlement
Background: Reports indicate that some officials in the Trump administration have proposed resettling zero refugees in Fiscal Year 2020. This comes despite the worst refugee crisis in history with more than 25 million refugees worldwide in need of safety and 1.4 million in need of resettlement globally. Following the administration’s attempts to bar access to asylum, any further decimation—or worse elimination—of the refugee resettlement program in FY2020 would amount to a total refugee ban. The message is clear: it appears 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 arriving at our southern border who are fleeing violence and persecution. But they are demonstrating that their own stated rationale is invalid, as they are turning away asylum seekers, including via an interim final rule barring asylum seekers who travel through another country en route to the United States. The administration has already implemented a myriad of policy changes to dismantle the refugee resettlement program, as documented in RCUSA’s report, including by setting record-low refugee admissions goals—45,000 in FY18 and 30,000 in FY19.
We cannot turn our backs on those who we have pledged to protect. 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. In particular, it would abandon our commitment to U.S.-affiliated Iraqis who put their lives on the line, as well as religious minorities and other refugees with no other option for safety. RCUSA is calling on the administration to return the resettlement program to historic norms—95,000 refugees per year. Anything less is unjustifiable, cruel and immoral, and would have devastating consequences for U.S. communities, national security and foreign policy interests.
Ending the Life-saving U.S. Resettlement Program Is Cruel, Dangerous and Unnecessary
U.S. protection of those seeking refuge is embedded in our history, identity and values. The United States has historically had robust refugee admissions and access to asylum protections. At times of great demand in the world, agencies cannot forgo their mission and legal responsibilities to accept refugees through both the resettlement program and the asylum system. The administration often claims that the United States does more to accept refugees than any other country. However, for every 1,000 residents in the United States only 3 of those are refugees and asylum seekers. Compare that to 17 in Germany, 30 in Sweden, and 167 in Lebanon.
The United States has the capacity and resources to support robust resettlement and asylum protections. The administration has often pointed to the growing backlog of asylum cases and refugee crises to argue that the United States simply cannot handle any more people fleeing violence. The reality is quite the opposite: the administration can and should properly staff both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Refugee Corps and the Asylum Division, using funds already allocated, to address the backlog.
The Trump administration has exacerbated the asylum backlog and is now blocking all refugees from accessing protection in the United States. The administration has pointed to the asylum backlog and increase in asylum seekers as justification for limiting refugee admissions. There is no validity in the claim that USCIS does not have the capacity to interview or screen refugees, especially given the administration's efforts to end access to asylum. Moreover, recent news that USCIS is urging its officers to volunteer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reveals their true motivation — to end all refugee protection.
Abandoning our commitment to refugees undermines regional security and U.S. foreign policy interests. Decimating the U.S. resettlement program is unnecessary, counterproductive, undermines American interests and makes our country less safe. Over the past two years we have already seen the dire consequences of the decline in U.S. refugee resettlement. When the United States signals to the world that protecting vulnerable individuals is not a priority, the world takes notice. Refugee resettlement has already seen a drastic decline globally, impacting front-line countries including key military allies that host the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees.
The U.S. Has Had an Average Refugee Admissions Goal Historically of 95,000
There is absolutely no reason to zero-out the refugee resettlement program or to cut the program further than the historically low levels that the administration has already set. The administration will come close to reaching its 30,000 refugee admissions goal this year, showing that it can be done, even if the administration reassigns USCIS officers to the U.S. southern border.
Current data illustrates that there are a sufficient number of refugees who are already approved and/or who have already passed their interviews with USCIS officers to welcome at least the same amount as this year. As of July 2, 2019, 8,819 refugees were approved for travel to the United States and an additional 29,362 refugees had passed their USCIS interviews. The chart below provides the total number of refugees who are in the U.S. pipeline, including those prescreened, post-USCIS interview, and ready for departure.
We Have Welcomed Far Higher Numbers of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the Past
For nearly 40 years, the United States has been able to welcome both refugees and asylum seekers. The two programs work in tandem—increased refugee arrivals do not detract resources from the asylum program and vice versa. The United States can—and has—maintained high levels of refugee resettlement while processing large numbers of asylum seekers. One key example of this is in the 1980s, during which the United States admitted more than five times the number refugees and asylees that we admitted in 2018.
In 1980, at the height of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan humanitarian crises, the U.S. welcomed 208,220 refugees and asylees, and throughout the 1980s, the United States welcomed an average of 102,017 refugees and asylees per year. The average asylum grant rate in the 1980s was 16%.
Refugee Council USA, a coalition of organizations committed to refugee resettlement and protection, is appalled by a recent Politico article that states Administration officials have proposed resettling zero refugees in Fiscal Year 2020. The Administration has already taken major steps to dismantle the resettlement program, as documented in RCUSA’s recent report, including by setting historically low refugee admissions levels - 45,000 in FY18 which they did not even meet by half, and 30,000 in FY19, of which 21,604 refugees have been admitted so far this year.
This news comes as the administration has announced a new interim final rule that drastically undermines access to asylum by blocking access to protection, with very limited exceptions, to any refugee who traveled through another country (that is party to the Refugee Convention) while en route to the United States southern border. This rule signals the administration’s intent to attempt to block practically all refugees from accessing protection in the U.S.
The annual refugee admission goal has averaged 95,000 annually over the nearly 40year history of the program. There is no legitimate reason why this administration cannot set, and meet, that goal again now—as it should, given the unprecedented global refugee crisis we are currently facing. RCUSA will host a press briefing phone call with Policy Experts to discuss the dire implications of shutting down the refugee resettlement program tomorrow, July 19th at 1:00pm EST.
“The Administration has all but confirmed that our country will reach the 30,000 refugee admission goal for FY2019,” noted Bill Canny, RCUSA Chair, and Executive Director for the Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We have been relieved by that important sign of the program getting back on track after a couple of extremely difficult years. In light of that hopeful sign, reports of further reducing the refugee goal to zero make no sense at all. There continue to be refugees who need the protection that resettlement provides, including refugees who are fleeing religious persecution. Faith based communities and volunteers across the U.S. have the desire, capacity, and resources to return to at least our historically normal level of welcoming refugees.”
While officials are reportedly attempting to justify a zero-refugee admissions ceiling with the transfer of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials who interview refugees to the U.S. southern border, the administration’s move to bar access to asylum invalidates this argument. Furthermore, data shows that as of July 2, 2019, 8,819 refugees were approved for travel to the United States, and 29,362 refugees had passed their DHS interviews. Despite the progress this year on meeting the FY2019 refugee goal and the large number already interviewed to arrive in FY2020, there is still news that some in the Administration are calling to zero out the resettlement program.
“This news is beyond disturbing,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service. “It will have a devastating impact on the world’s most vulnerable populations, including refugees who we have promised to protect and who have already been approved for resettlement to the United States. It means closing the golden door entirely to refugees at a time of unprecedented need and will cause long-term damage to a legacy of welcoming refugees that has always had bipartisan support. Let’s not forget that we resettled the most refugees under President Reagan.”
“The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the U.S. asylum system have existed and operated in tandem for decades,” said Emily Gray, Senior Vice President of U.S. Ministries at World Relief. “While the administration is trying to pit one against the other to justify their anti-immigrant ideology, there is no reason why we must close our doors to religious minorities, Iraqis who served alongside U.S. troops, and other refugees who we have promised safety simply because people are seeking asylum at our borders. Especially since the administration is deporting the vast majority of asylum seekers, it is baffling that they would attempt to justify the elimination of refugee resettlement due to the mere presence of asylum seekers.”
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, observed: “This week, the Trump Administration hosts the largest international conference ever on international religious freedom, just as it considers the smallest refugee ceiling ever. This week also marks the 61st anniversary of the notorious Evian Conference, when the US convened 32 countries which condemned Nazi persecution of Jews but failed to take any action to offer them refuge. I am afraid that Secretary of State Pompeo’s Ministerial on Religious Freedom is nothing but another Evian - words but no welcome for those who flee persecution.”
Abandoning its lead role, indeed any role, in refugee resettlement, the US would:
Lose credibility and influence as a moral and foreign policy leader in situations of forced displacement around the globe.
Leave in harm’s way refugees who need resettlement, including Christians and others fleeing religious persecution, as well as Iraqis who helped the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Leave families stranded, separated, and scarred, with thousands of refugees in mid-process and diminishing hope of reuniting with loved ones.
Be deprived of the contributions -- intellectual and creative, economic and political -- of tens of thousands of newcomers to the U.S. each year.
Lose institutional memory of program expertise and experience of this highly successful federal program, that has been a model public/private partnership for nearly 40 years.
For more information or to register for the media briefing press call email firstname.lastname@example.org.
URGENT: Stop the Administration from Banning Asylum Seekers and Families Seeking Protection
On July 15th, this administration announced its plans to ban asylum seekers and those who seek safety at the U.S. southern border if they travel through another country en route to the United States. This asylum ban is cruel, unnecessary, and illegal. It has life or death consequences for families and individuals who are fleeing violence, desperation, and persecution. All people have the legal right to seek a safe place to call home, and seeking asylum is protected within U.S. and international law. We must demand that our Members of Congress defend our values and decry this new asylum ban. Please join us in taking urgent action:
Tell Your Members of Congress to Stop the Asylum Ban and Protect Asylum Seekers
Click here to receive a call that connects you to your 2 Senators and 1 Representative
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State], and [as a person of faith], I urge you to affirm the right of all people to seek asylum and protection. Central American families – men, women and children – are fleeing to safety wherever they can. This must be treated as a humanitarian crisis and refugee situation, rather than an as an immigration enforcement issue. I call on you to terminate the administration’s latest asylum ban that denies protection to individuals who do not first apply for protection in at least one country through which they travel en route to the United States. I urge you to do everything in your power to ensure the administration processes and welcomes asylum seekers, stops returning asylum seekers to harm, and ends detaining children in inhumane conditions. My community welcomes asylum seekers and immigrants, and I urge you to do the same.”
Amplify Call to Action on Social Media: Share the same message on social media with your Representatives & Senators! Sample posts are below:
● It is LEGAL for people seeking protection to apply for asylum. Taking away that fundamental human right is illegal and immoral. #NoAsylumBan
● .@[Senator/Representative] Our nation was built as a refuge for the persecuted. Defend American values. Stop @RealDonaldTrump from slamming the door on vulnerable individuals seeking asylum. #NoAsylumBan
● .@[Senator/Representative] Everyone has the legal right to seek protection from persecution. Urge @DHSgov & @CBP to welcome asylum seekers, not incarcerate them, separate their families, or turn them away. #NoAsylumBan
● People over politics! Everyone has the right to seek protection from violence and persecution. #NoAsylumBan
● Politicians should be upholding our laws, not manipulating Americans. Congress needs to make sure @WhiteHouse, @DHSgov and @CBP understand asylum protections are the law of the land! #NoAsylumBan
● Central American families -- people like you and me -- are fleeing violence, desperate, persecution. This is a humanitarian crisis, NOT a political football. #NoAsylumBan
Washington, DC - Today, RCUSA released a report on the multiple ways in which the Administration’s refugee policies have devastated the individuals and families seeking safety, the communities that wish to welcome them, and the U.S. resettlement program at large.
The 26-page report paints a bleak picture, outlining the dozens of policies and executive actions that have harmed vulnerable populations, both here in the United States and abroad. It also shows the negative impact of drastically reduced refugee admissions not just on the refugees themselves, but also on local and regional economies, and the resettlement infrastructure that will take years to rebuild.
Key findings of the report are:
The first half of Fiscal Year 2019 saw a 70% decline in refugee arrivals when compared to the first half of Fiscal year 2017, with a 90% reduction in the resettlement of Muslim refugees overall and a 48% reduction in Christian refugees, including targeted Christian minorities.
Cities that relied on a steady influx of refugees report labor shortages and a lack of economic activity.
Churches and communities with plans to welcome refugees find themselves unable to fulfill their missions and pursue their values.
Resettlement agencies had to close 51 resettlement programs and suspend resettlement services in 41 offices across 23 states, diminishing the ability of certain regions to be able to welcome refugees and limiting available services for refugees already here.
At the same time, the report highlights the benefits of a robust refugee resettlement program for America: bringing net economic benefits to the nation, revitalizing communities faced with population decline, and furthering our national security and foreign policy goals by using refugee policy as a strategic diplomatic tool.
From the report: “The current administration’s changes to the USRAP have had disastrous effects on refugees, the communities that welcome them, and the United States as a whole. Which is why we ask “Where Are The Refugees?” and urge the administration and Congress to rebuild the USRAP and revitalize U.S. leadership on refugee resettlement.”
Contact: Danielle Grigsby, Interim Director, email@example.com
World Refugee Day 2019 Toolkit (download here)
Thursday, June 20th ─ and the entire month of June ─ we come together to celebrate the courage and resilience of refugees and their contributions to U.S. communities. We also raise our voices in opposition to the U.S. government’s decision to turn its back on refugees, through reducing resettlement in the United States and expanding policies that keep families apart.
While the United States was once a leader in protecting refugees, the current administration has dismantled our refugee resettlement program by 75%. But the need has never been greater, as the world is currently grappling with the worst refugee crisis in history. As refugees and friends of refugees, we are calling on the administration to preserve and expand refugee resettlement in the United States and enact policies that help refugees rebuild their lives.
Top 4 Ways to Protect Refugees & Restore the U.S. Resettlement Program
For RCUSA’s 2019 World Refugee Day Toolkit, please visit: bit.ly/WorldRefugeeDay2019.
Start by Sharing the Message on Social Media: Starting June 1 and every day thereafter, send a message of support on social media. Sample tweets available here. Sample graphics are available here: bit.ly/WRDGraphics2019. Sample videos on welcoming refugees are linked, as well as a longer form video for screening at events. Follow @RCUSA_DC on Twitter and “like" Refugee Council USA on Facebook for more. Use #WRD2019 in all postings.
Host or Attend a Local World Refugee Day Event: Even small events, multiplied across the country, send a powerful message to the Trump administration and Congress that welcoming refugees and immigrants is a moral issue. Host a local World Refugee Day event, such as a Journey Sabbath to dedicate a worship service to refugees, or attend an event already being planned. We Are All America has a map where you can register your event, or find out what is going on in your area. You can also link up with I Am An Immigrant actions. More resources are available here.
Call Congress - National Call-in Day June 20th: Click here for information on calling Congress, and share with your networks for our massive call-in day June 20th, World Refugee Day. Sample script and click-to-call tool available here.
Support Local Refugees Welcome Resolutions: Ask your state & local policymakers to pass Refugees Welcome resolutions in June. Click here for a sample resolution. Visit contactingcongress.org/local and usa.gov/elected-officials for contact information. Tweet at your governor and state legislators. Don’t forget #WRD2019!
Immigrant Heritage Month: Community, Family, Food, and Love & Support
June is also Immigrant Heritage Month! The I Am An Immigrant campaign, led by FWD.US, encourages all community members to celebrate the monumental contributions that immigrants and refugees make to our communities every day. Each week, we will lift up refugee stories and ways to take action to restore refugee protection, corresponding to a particular theme for that week. The theme weeks are listed below!
Week 1 (June 3-9): Community
Organize a Journey Sabbath!
We invite people of all faiths to stand in solidarity with refugees by organizing a Journey Sabbath in June. A Journey Sabbath can be dedicating time during a regular weekly worship service to having refugees share their stories and asking congregants to take action in support of refugee protection and resettlement. Here are general worship planning resources and many denominations have their own resources as well. A prayer for the uprooted is available here. You can also invite congregations to send a Refugees Welcome postcard or We Choose Welcome postcard to your national, state, and local leaders. You can find more planning resources for your celebration here. More information on how to organize a journey sabbath can be found here.
Week 2 (June 10-16): Family
Write for a Local Media Outlet!
Writing opinion editorials (op-ed) or a letter-to-the-editor (LTE) for local media is the perfect way to make your voice heard. This week, share what “family” means to you and why it is important to protect refugee families. Below is a sample letter to the editor. For information on how to submit an op-ed or LTE, contact Lynn Tramonte at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for additional resources. And don’t forget to share your piece on social media once it is published!
As Members of Congress celebrate refugees and immigrants for World Refugee Day and Immigrant Heritage Month, I hope they take time to reflect on how the United States – and [CITY, STATE] in particular – can continue to be a welcoming community for refugees and immigrants.
World Refugee Day reminds us that our community is home to many refugees waiting to be reunited with family members who remain overseas. We must not close the door on those most in need by dismantling the refugee resettlement program. Congress should hold the administration accountable to ensure we resettle at least the 30,000 refugees we promised to welcome this year and commit to resettling at least 75,000 refugees next year.
Refugees are mothers, fathers, and children. They are doctors, teachers, lawyers, business owners, craftsmen, and musicians. As the world searches for solutions to the largest displacement crisis in history, with more than 25 million refugees worldwide, we have a moral and legal obligation to refugees seeking a chance to rebuild their lives and create a better future for their families. These people are no different than our [Biblical] ancestors who were once refugees who found welcome and were called to do the same.
Week 3 (June 17-23): Food
Support the Ration Challenge!
The Ration Challenge is public “challenge” where participants commit to eating the same amount and types of food a Syrian refugee would receive in a camp in Jordan. It takes places for one week (June 16-23). The objective is to raise awareness about the stark plight of these refugees, and raise funds to support them. Here are ways you can participate:
Promote the Ration Challenge on Facebook or Twitter. Click here for sample graphics.
Film a 30 second video about why you support the Ration Challenge, and amplify on social media.
Sign up to take the ration challenge yourself, and share your experience on social media.
Work with CWS to write a column about the challenges facing refugee families and support for the Ration Challenge. Contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at email@example.com.
Week 4 (June 24-30): Love and Support
Join National Prayer Chain!
Flood social media with prayers for refugees and offerings of prayerful witness to restore the refugee resettlement program. Heres are some ideas:
Record a video of yourself holding a printed, filled out #Faith4Refugees Refugee Prayer Chain sign.
Say: My name is _________________ and I’m ______________ (faith tradition)
I am from ___________________ (city, state)
I pray with refugees to restore the resettlement program because_______________________.
Upload your video to Twitter with the hashtags #Faith4Refugees #WRD2019 #CelebrateImmigrants and tag the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (@interfaithimm) and tweet at your Members of Congress.
Post the video to Instagram and Facebook with #Faith4Refugees #WRD2019 #CelebrateImmigrants. Make the post public on Facebook and tag Interfaith Immigration Coalition and your Members of Congress!
Washington, DC - Midway through fiscal year 2019, the Trump administration has admitted only 12,151 refugees, less than 40% of the historically low 30,000 refugee admissions goal set by the President for the fiscal year. At this pace, the Trump administration is likely to admit the lowest number of refugees ever in the history of the program, eclipsing last year’s unprecedented low admission figure of 22,491--and representing a 75% cut in refugee admissions when compared to the historic average.
The Refugee Council USA has released a midyear infographic that captures these incredibly stark numbers, highlighting current admissions, historic averages, and admission by region.
From any perspective, refugee resettlement in the United States is not meeting America’s promise of serving as a place of refuge and hope. Throughout the almost 40-year history of the US Refugee Admissions Program, annual targets for admission have averaged 95,000 refugees, while annual admissions have averaged 80,000 refugees. Within days of his inauguration, President Trump slashed the FY 2017 admissions target from 110,000 refugees to 50,000 and has progressively reduced the annual target each year, lowering it to historic levels of 45,000 in FY 2018, and 30,000 in FY 2019.
Failure to meet even these record low targets translates into more suffering for refugees, the separation of families, and the shrinking of the refugee resettlement network. The U.S. retreat from leadership in refugee resettlement has repercussions for the economy, for national security, and for international humanitarian efforts, and this year’s mid-year numbers are a grim reminder that more must be done.
RCUSA urges the administration to meet its commitments and urges Congress to hold the administration accountable to at least meet this year’s refugee admissions goal, set an admissions goal of at least 75,000 next year, and restore the resettlement program to historic norms in line with our nation’s values and commitments.
The public demands to know #WhereRtheRefugees?
Press contact: Danielle Grigsby, Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Refugee Council USA opposes the President’s unprecedented use of executive power to use resources designated by Congress for other purposes to build a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico. Indeed, many of those who are currently seeking admission to the United States are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. Many are children and families who qualify for child or refugee protection under U.S. law. Funding for further building of a wall does not address their vital needs or fulfill the U.S. commitment and responsibility to provide protection. Quite the contrary. Funding for the wall represents a disregard for human suffering.
RCUSA urges the administration instead to reverse policies that have created barriers to asylum protection for children and families seeking refuge in our country, thereby leaving them in harm’s way as they wait indefinitely in Mexico. The tools exist to act with compassion and to fairly evaluate the claims of all those who seek admission to the United States. Making use of those tools is consistent with our national values as well as our legal and moral obligations to provide due process and refugee protection. Our immigration laws are badly in need of reform, but it must be done by vigorous debate and respect for the democratic process.
Yasmine Taeb first stepped foot on U.S. soil at the age of seven. She along with her mother, two brothers and sister crossed the border without authorization from Tijuana into southern California, and while their nighttime crossing was traumatic, it did not come with the forced separation of children and parents or the threat of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Their flight from civil strife took place in a different era. Taeb and her family were fleeing from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). They made their way from Ankara, Turkey, where they were living as refugees, to the outskirts of San Ysidro, California, where border patrol agents detained the entire family.
Taeb’s father, who was already living in the United States, posted bail. The family then joined him in South Florida, where Taeb grew up and graduated from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Along the way, she obtained her permanent residency, or green card, and later became a U.S. citizen.
Growing up in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Taeb did not encounter the obstacles faced by immigrants crossing the border today, many of which were put into place by the passage of highly punitive immigration laws in 1996. She, for example, was able to get a driver’s license with ease, and college scholarships paid for her entire undergraduate degree.
As a former refugee, Taeb knows all too well what it means to run for her life and embark on a long and fearful journey before finding a place she could call home. That, Taeb said, is why she has dedicated her adult life to fighting for refugee rights in the United States and abroad.
“The reason I work on these issues,” she said, “is because my family and I were given a chance. We weren’t turned away at the border, we weren’t kicked, we weren’t fired at with tear gas, we weren’t kept out of school.
“I was able to live and work in this country because of the opportunities that have been given to me and my family,” she said, “and I want to make sure those same opportunities are available to millions of others that are fleeing violence and persecution and are simply trying to come to the United States to seek refuge.”
Taeb, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a law degree from Pennsylvania State University, has amassed a long list of accomplishments in a short amount of time. She was a legislative fellow for Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a project manager at the Center for American Progress, a legislative director at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and she’s now a senior policy counsel at the Center for Victims of Torture.
In addition, she is the first Muslim woman and Iranian-American to be elected to the Democratic National Committee, and she’s running to become the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 35th State Senate, a contest that will be decided in June 2019.
In that role, she plans to be a vocal advocate for immigrant populations throughout the state and to continue her fight against the ever-mounting obstacles placed in the way of immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.
“It makes me angry when I see people demonizing refugees and young children and families and mothers, people like my own family,” Taeb said. “I don’t understand why people would treat them as if they are some sort of criminals when these are the most vulnerable populations in the world.
“We should be extending a helping hand and welcoming them in,” she said, “not closing our doors shut.”
Refugee Council USA Statement for the Record
U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary Hearing
“Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security”
Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), a coalition of 24 U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, is dedicated to refugee protection, welcome, and excellence in the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Since 2000, RCUSA has promoted policies and programs that advance the United States’ commitment to refugees, asylees, asylum seekers and other individuals in need of humanitarian protections. RCUSA urges Members of the Committee to reaffirm the importance of the U.S. refugee resettlement program and to recognize the right of individuals to seek asylum no matter their manner of entry into the United States. We also urge you to hold the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable under domestic and international law for the important role it plays in the U.S. resettlement and asylum programs.
RCUSA has observed the systematic weakening of America’s commitment to refugees through a series of refugee bans and related administrative changes that have restricted and reduced refugee resettlement. These have prolonged the separation of at-risk families and threatened the safety of tens of thousands of overseas refugees who otherwise were on track to come to the United States and receive refugee resettlement protection.
In FY18, the Administration reduced the number of refugees that could be resettled in the United States during the fiscal year to a historic low of 45,000, and it ultimately resettled less than half that number of refugees. In FY19, the Administration reduced the number of refugees that can be resettled in the United States to a new historic low of 30,000. As of Nov. 30, 2018, only 3,939 refugees, or 13 percent of the eligible total, had been admitted to the United States. If refugee admissions proceed at that rate, the United States would admit only 23,634 refugees by the end of the fiscal year, well short of the stated goal.
These significant reductions come on the heels of a robust refugee resettlement program that for decades promised to resettle an average of 95,000 refugees per year, thereby strengthening U.S. foreign policy and contributing to our moral leadership on the world stage. RCUSA calls on the Committee to ensure the Administration is operating the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in good faith and to hold the Administration accountable for meeting the FY19 refugee admissions goal.
RCUSA has also witnessed ongoing and systemic attempts by the Administration to block access to asylum for vulnerable families and individuals in need of protection. For example, the Administration’s Nov. 9 asylum ban proclamation and related administrative rules seek to prohibit asylum seekers who crossed between ports of entry from applying for asylum. A U.S. federal district court judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop this policy change, explaining that it “irreconcilably conflicts with the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] and the expressed intent of Congress.”
Meanwhile, DHS has repeatedly undermined U.S. asylum protections by turning away asylum seekers at the border and detaining asylum seekers who enter the United States. These measures are comparable to the earlier, ill-fated policies of separating families at the border to deter other families from fleeing the violence in Central America.
Congress and the Administration need to view this migration as a refugee protection situation. People have a human, legal and moral right to seek protection in a country where they will be safe. Turning away or criminalizing people seeking protection violates international human rights and refugee laws. The actions of turning away asylum seekers, closing and limiting access to ports of entry and militarizing the border have exacerbated, not resolved, the challenges of providing needed protection in the United States.
Furthermore, the United States has the capacity, expertise and duty both to resettle tens of thousands more refugees than it currently plans to resettle in FY19 and to implement a fair and humane asylum process for all the families and individuals who arrive at our borders seeking protection. RCUSA urges Committee Members to insist that the Administration expeditiously and responsibly processes all individuals who arrive to the United States and seek asylum and other forms of relief.
RCUSA also calls on Congress and the Administration to address root causes of migration and provide alternatives to dangerous migration. On the latter point, a viable alternative for Central American children should be restored, namely the Central American Minors (CAM) Program, which was hastily eliminated in January 2018 and left nearly 4,000 children seeking protection without the chance to have their claims heard. We also urge Congress and the Administration to strengthen refugee and migrant protection throughout Central America and Mexico and to end violence and corruption that forces people to flee.
— For Immediate Release, Contact Lucy Hood, email@example.com
By Mary Giovagnoli
RCUSA Executive Director
My husband was making Thanksgiving pies very late on Sunday night to send to family in Wisconsin. As he went to put an apple pie in the oven, something went pop, and the oven stopped working. We turned to our neighbors, who graciously allowed us to use their oven, despite the late hour, and let us use their home again the next day to bake another pie. Crisis averted, pies overnighted, and all was once more right in the kitchen. Our neighbors to the rescue. And that got me thinking about neighbors, community and how helping each other in a time of need — large or small — is at the core of the work we do to support refugees.
Our minor inconvenience was a tiny moment in the existence of a nation where neighbors routinely look out for each other. You don’t have to look far to find examples of a nation that rallies to help those in a time of crisis. Take, for example, the tremendous outpouring of support for the thousands of Californians who have been displaced by the wildfires, or the way people around the country immediately respond to help others whose lives are disrupted by hurricanes, gun violence and other tragedies. Look at the way people came out in droves to show support for the Jewish community after the tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue. One of the most poignant examples of support was a donation of almost $250,000 from the American Muslim community to help victims and all of Pittsburgh begin to rebuild their shattered lives.
Americans are generous. Not only do we support our immediate neighbors, we have consistently demonstrated a willingness to open our hearts to the oppressed and persecuted around the world. People have pushed back against efforts to sow hatred and fear of refugees and to ban them from coming to the United States. They have rejected the idea that our nation should close its doors to asylum-seekers, and thousands have offered assistance to immigrant families separated at the border.
Despite this generosity of spirit, some Americans say very ugly things. Some people continue to resent refugees because they receive a small amount of government assistance to get on their feet. Some people get it into their heads, fueled by a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering, that the support given to refugees is a drain on the country and that we can only support the people in need of assistance by ignoring “our own.” The facts don’t support such arguments. As study after study has shown, refugees give back far more than they receive, not only economically but in their social and cultural contributions to our communities.
Once someone has it in their head that something is unfair, however, it can be hard to dislodge that belief, no matter the strength of the data. And this is where the oven comes in. I am pretty sure most people would gladly share their ovens to help a neighbor out. It is a small gesture, it usually isn’t too inconvenient, and the transaction cost is low. Similarly, when tragedy strikes, most people will reach for their wallets, share their food and their blankets, pick up some diapers or dog food, all to help a neighbor. When we view the situation as meeting an immediate need, when communal action means we all contribute a little to give a lot, and where there is the expectation that helping people in the short-term also helps them in the long-term, we are generous.
That is how we need to start thinking about refugees. Refugee resettlement in the United States plays an important role in bringing vulnerable people to a country where they can make a fresh start. But vulnerability is not a permanent condition. Yes, refugees need assistance. They have lost their possessions, their homes, their loved ones in many cases, and they have lost their country. But that doesn’t mean they have lost their compassion, their drive or their talent. They receive limited and temporary funds from federal, state and local governments. Volunteers contribute money, time and talent to help refugees get acclimated to their new homes, where most will attend school, find new jobs and start making contributions to their communities.
What we give to refugees is a tiny fraction of what they will give back. We are investing in their future, just as we invest in the future of our neighbors when we lend a helping hand. To put it in terms of Thanksgiving — we are providing refugees an oven, but over time they will make the pies.
As a group of migrants and asylum seekers make their way through Mexico to the United States, the President has threatened to cut foreign aid to Central American countries and plans to send troops to the Southern border. In response to further reports that the President will issue an executive order that would bar individuals from seeking asylum in the United States, Mary Giovagnoli, Executive Director, Refugee Council, USA, issued the following response:
“Refugee Council USA urges the President to exercise restraint and compassion and uphold our legal obligations under U.S. and international law in response to the asylum seekers, migrants, and others traveling together and seeking protection from harm in parts of Central America.”
Our nation’s response to the life-threatening dangers driving this group is a test of our humanity. To treat this as anything other than a vulnerable people seeking to find safety stokes fear and hatred against the women, children, and men who have joined together to make a dangerous journey slightly safer. Some are seeking asylum in Mexico, others will grow discouraged and return home, and some will eventually arrive at the southwestern border of the United States.
Turning people away is not an option consistent with our national values and legal obligations. We have adequate systems in place to process and adjudicate the cases of individuals who present themselves at the border, whether they arrive individually or in large groups. If we have learned anything from the past, it is that overlooking the plight of vulnerable families serves only to divide us and to delay seeking solutions these families need and deserve. Now more than ever we should not use these families as an excuse to sow fear and division.
We urge the administration to process responsibly all individuals who arrive to the United States and seek asylum and other legal protection. We also urge Congress and the administration to strengthen refugee and migrant protection throughout Central America and Mexico and to support programs that seek to end violence and corruption in the most dangerous parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We remain steadfast in our commitment to offer humanitarian assistance and protection to these families in need.”
In response to the tragic loss of life today at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Refugee Council USA issued the following statement
The members of RCUSA are devastated by the attack on worshippers and the tragic loss of life. We stand with the Jewish community, especially our brothers and sisters of HIAS, against anti-Semitism and hate. Welcoming refugees and others in need is a response of love against hate, and we will continue to respond with love.
The 1980 Refugee Act requires the executive branch to consult with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before the President may issue a determination authorizing the number of refugees to be admitted in the next fiscal year. For the past two years, the Trump administration has ignored this important requirement, announcing its intended refugee admissions number in the press before consulting with Congress. This year, the administration missed the statutory deadline for consultation, conducting the required meeting after the new fiscal year began.
RCUSA’s Executive Director, Mary Giovagnoli, notes, “The Administration’s disregard for refugees, Congress and the American people is reflected in its failure to take seriously the importance of Congress’s role in the refugee admissions determination process. Setting the refugee admissions level at 30,000 people for Fiscal Year 2019, the lowest in the program’s history, is another indication of the administration’s efforts to dismantle the refugee program.
The consultation component of the Refugee Act is designed to foster dialogue and analysis regarding the strategic and humanitarian consequences of U.S. refugee resettlement policy. Failing to take that requirement seriously suggests that the Administration has no interest in hearing that America wants a more transparent and robust refugee admissions program, and that many Americans want the President to admit far more than 30,000 refugees. This major reduction of the refugee program continues, leaving thousands more refugees in harm’s way, despite the warnings from diplomats, national security experts and members of Congress that there are significant foreign policy repercussions when the U.S. abandons its leadership role in refugee resettlement.
The handling of the Presidential Determination process is another reminder that this administration must be held accountable if we expect it to have a refugee program consistent with U.S. humanitarian and strategic interests. We continue to urge Congress to demand higher refugee admissions, but to also hold the administration accountable for its expected promise of 30,000 refugee admissions. With so many refugees in need of resettlement, not a single one of the 30,000 slots should go empty.”