More than 25 million refugees are homeless with lives on hold around the world – the highest number in recorded history. Yet U.S. resettlement has plummeted to an all-time low. The administration set a very low goal of 45,000 refugee admissions for 2018 and resettled just 20,000 refugees. Now the proposed admissions target is 30,000 for next year.
This should be disturbing to every American who values our nation’s history of reaching out to protect the oppressed. The hard work, determination, and skills of generations of immigrants from all countries, religions, and backgrounds built our great nation. We should continue our tradition of welcoming immigrants in this difficult time.
While the administration carves away at the refugee program, agencies like Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio are ready to resettle collectively 75,000 refugees next year. This is the average annual number of refugees we have historically resettled as a nation.
Resettlement is reserved only for the most vulnerable refugees who cannot return to their homes and do not have safe places where they have fled. Despite the facts that refugees already face the most rigorous security vetting and medical screening process of any traveler to the United States, the administration continues to act to keep the resettlement numbers dismally low. This includes imposing refugee bans that have separated families, abandoned refugees in unsafe situations, and jeopardized our national security and foreign policy goals.
We know of many families who caught in a situation of being here with a family member left behind and are unable to gain immigration status. We are consoling families here who cling to the hope they will see loved ones once again. We need to do more.
An example is Amenah who escaped wars in Iraq and Syria before resettling with her sons in Cincinnati with guidance from Catholic Charities. Her husband was too ill to travel when the family received clearance to come to the United States. He encouraged her to get on the plane, and he would follow.
But the country travel ban prevented her husband from immigrating once he was well enough to travel and Amenah’s sons are without their father. She connects with her husband, Jamal, via FaceTime. She smiles, hides her tears and stays brave for her family. She is unsure what to say to her 13-year-old son who is terribly upset and constantly asks for his father.
Refugees contribute to our community and local economy. Amenah and her older son work full time. Study after study shows that refugees and immigrants create new businesses and new jobs. The most recent study by the current administration found that refugees have made a net contribution of $63 billion to government revenue over the last decade.
Congress has a critical role to ask this administration to restore refugee resettlement to historic levels and provide humanitarian relief to tens of thousands of refugees still waiting for resettlement this year as they had been promised. After more than 18 months of countless security checks and years of living in a refugee camp, the administration needs to clear out the red tape and resettle these refugees now.
This is why I am calling on our Congressional leaders to act now to restore the Presidential Determination for refugee admissions. I encourage you to do the same. As a country, we should restore our tradition to be that beacon of hope engraved on the Statue of Liberty for families yearning to be breathe free together.