After ten years of family separation, Melaku Gebretsadik was on his way to pick up his wife and three kids at the Denver airport when he learned their trip to the United States had been cancelled, their reunion once again postponed.
“My heart was broken,” he said. Refugees from Eritrea, the Gebretsadik family had been forced to live apart for years due to the lengthy refugee resettlement process, made even more fraught by the Trump administration’s xenophobic changes.
Over a month ago, President Joe Biden promised to expand refugee protection in the United States, and proposed a revised Fiscal Year 2021 refugee admissions goal (or “Presidential Determination”) of 62,500, an increase from the previous administration’s refugee admissions goal of 15,000 – an historic low. To date, President Biden still has not made the change official, and more than 700 flights have been cancelled. This delay is devastating to the refugees who are at risk of seeing their security checks expire and facing prolonged family separation.
Today forty-two heads of communion and other high-level faith leaders sent a letter to President Biden, calling on him to “immediately sign a new, revised FY21 Presidential Determination and restore regional allocations based on vulnerability and need.”
We are deeply concerned about the 700+ canceled flights and the plan to cancel even more flights this month…. Urgently signing the new refugee admissions goal will prevent the cancellation of travel for hundreds of refugees scheduled to arrive over the coming weeks, honor your promise to protect refugee families, and reverse much of the damage done to the resettlement program under the previous administration.
We are called by our sacred texts and faith principles to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable, and welcome the sojourner. Our congregations, synagogues, and mosques have historically played key roles in assisting refugees with housing, language, employment, and social support necessary for rapid and effective resettlement into U.S. communities. Yet, our commitment to offer refuge from violence and persecution requires our government to demonstrate the moral leadership upon which our nation was founded. Each day that passes without this signed executive action is another day that hundreds of particularly vulnerable refugees are forced to wait to be resettled.
The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Advocacy Director of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, said: “People of faith around the world are watching the Biden-Harris administration actions on refugee resettlement with eager and hopeful anticipation. It is our hope that it will provide moral guidance for the global community in the way it welcomes the stranger and immigrant. Hospitality is a mandate for people of faith. Throughout scripture we are commanded to ‘welcome the stranger.’ We urge the issuance of an Emergency Fiscal Year 2021 Presidential Determination (PD) for Refugee Admissions with a minimum of 62,500 persons to be resettled. It is of vital importance that the administration restores the refugee resettlement program goals of past years and projects an image of a nation which cares for ‘the least of these’ who are suffering greatly. The Presbyterian Church (USA) endorses this goal and is committed to being a neighbor to all who seek refuge and gracious hospitality.”
Bishop Minerva Carcaño, from United Methodist Immigration Task Force added: “It is time to break the vicious cycle of the suffering of refugees to whom a commitment was made to help them resettle in the U.S. In their suffering, children among them, refugees have been persecuted in their home countries and also used as political pawns to promote xenophobia in this country. This needs to be stopped! President Biden has committed to ending this evil, in part by allowing vetted refugees to travel to the U.S. to be resettled and taken out of harm’s way. But this cannot happen until Biden signs his proposed Presidential Determination. We call upon him to do so immediately.”
“We are deeply concerned for the millions of refugees who have been awaiting resettlement for years. The congregations of the United Church of Christ are ready to welcome refugees and resettle them safely into communities. We strongly support President Biden’s commitment to rebuilding the refugee resettlement program in the U.S. and encourage the President to sign the Presidential Determination, beginning the process of a humanitarian and faithful response to the needs of the 29 million refugees needing homes,” said Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia A. Thompson, Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries – United Church of Christ.
Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS said: “No value is more Jewish than welcoming the stranger. American Jews are eager to help refugees make new lives in the United States, just as our ancestors were helped to settle here in years past. All we need is for President Biden to sign the Emergency Presidential Determination his administration presented to Congress on February 12 and start allowing refugees to come to our country once again.”
Rev. Teresa (Terri) Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. & Canada added: “Until our U.S. heritage of welcome can be restored following its recent decimation, refugees across the world will continue to grieve their loss of homelands without a chance to heal and reunite with family members to build hope in a new land. Congregations and communities around the country which have prepared homes and waited to partner with refugees to build new opportunities are likewise left with empty arms. We strongly urge President Biden to take the bold step now to sign a determination of 62,500 refugees for 2021 without categorical restrictions, and move immediately to urge 125,000 refugees for the next fiscal year. Opening our hearts to some of the world’s most vulnerable unites us across divisions to share in fulfilling God’s calling to love all neighbors, and joyfully demonstrates the hospitality wherein we may discover ‘we have entertained angels unawares’.”
Inter Faith Immigration