Christian Groups Fear That the Trump Administration’s Policies May Signal the End of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S.

Migrant children sleep on a mattress on the floor of the AMAR migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on July 17, 2019. Asylum-seekers grappled to understand what a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refugee claims by Central Americans and many others meant for their bids to find a better life in America amid a chaos of rumors, confusion and fear. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Faith-based groups that help the U.S. government resettle refugees fear the future of their work is in jeopardy, after learning that the Trump administration is considering shutting down refugee resettlement for the coming fiscal year.

That move, advocates say, would dismantle an already weakened — and largely religious — refugee resettlement infrastructure dedicated to helping immigrants.

On Thursday (July 18), Politico reported that Trump administration officials are mulling the option of setting the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to zero.

The shift could devastate the refugee resettlement program, which is largely operated by religious groups: Of the nine non-profit organizations that currently partner with the federal government to resettle refugees, six are faith-based.

Jen Smyers. Photo courtesy of Church World Service

Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy for Church World Service, criticized that possible move on a call with journalists on Friday. She and other experts on the call argued that ending refugee resettlement would not only leave thousands of refugees stranded but also demolish a refugee resettlement program — one that includes CWS — designed to help people facing persecution.

“I think we would appeal to the president, the vice president and really everyone in the administration who professes to be a person of faith to look at the consequences that this would have and to really go back to basics in terms of the commandment to welcome the stranger,” she said.

Smyers was echoed by Anne Richard, the former assistant secretary of state for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the Trump administration is trying to drive the U.S. refugee resettlement program into the ground,” Richard said. “The Trump administration is trying to ruin a successful public-private partnership.”

Politico reported that officials are also considering reducing the refugee cap to 3,000 or 10,000 instead of zero. Either would be a drastic reduction.

During his first year in office, Trump lowered the refugee cap from 110,000 under Obama to 45,000. He later reduced the cap to 30,000 people — the lowest in the history of the refugee resettlement program, which started in the 1980s.

Cutbacks have already decimated the largely faith-based resettlement program, forcing office closures and significant layoffs of staff at various organizations. Advocates say the changes are hurtful not only to refugee communities seeking entry into the United States, but also ones who already make the U.S. their home, as refugee resettlement programs often hire former refugees to help with the work.

Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at the evangelical Christian organization World Relief, said even considering reducing the number of refugees to zero amounts to a “complete failure of moral leadership” on the part of the State Department. She said it was out of step with the department’s recent Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which convened this week.

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Source: Religion News Service