By CBF Advocacy
After hearing outrage from faith leaders about his decision to maintain the historically low number of 15,000 refugee admissions into the United States this fiscal year, President Joe Biden reversed course late Friday afternoon. A higher number of refugee resettlements would be announced by May 15, he reported.
On Friday, April 16, Biden signed an emergency determination that will only speed refugee admissions that have been stalled for months but does not increase the refugee limit. CBF leaders continue to urge the Biden Administration to raise the refugee cap as promised and to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary to raise the limit.
CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley noted that for the past 30 years Cooperative Baptists have heard a “clear and consistent calling to ministry among refugees.”
“Not only do our field personnel serve alongside refugees all over the world, they also work alongside congregations in the U.S. to offer places of welcome for refugees who come to this country from all over the world,” Baxley said. “We believe doing so is a faithful response to Jesus’ call to ‘let the oppressed go free,’ and even a way to experience the presence of Jesus, who said ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ After all, Jesus grew up in a refugee family that fled Judea in his earliest days of life. These refugees awaiting settlement today have applied for asylum in the U.S. and have already been vetted by our government. Many, like Jesus and his family, are seeking asylum from tyranny.
“Because of this clear calling from Jesus and because of the ministries of our congregations and our Fellowship, I ask the Biden Administration to honor its commitment to increase the number of refugees who may be resettled in this country,” Baxley said. “I ask for clarity about this soon as the safety and well-being of people is at stake. Christians of many denominations stand willing to do what is required to live out our faith and to extend hospitality.”
Stephen Reeves, CBF’s director of advocacy, echoed Baxley and expressed his hope that the Biden Administration will embrace a more welcoming policy toward refugees on May 15.
“We understand the actions of the previous administration did great harm to our refugee resettlement system, but we expect this administration to invest the resources necessary to make significant increases as fast as possible,” said Reeves, who also serves as executive director of Fellowship Southwest.
“While we’re hopeful President Biden will establishment a more welcoming policy and on May 15 set a number more in line with our historic goals, good intentions and positive statements are not enough. Those seeking safety need action, and I know there are Christians across this country ready to help welcome refugees.”
Contrary to common perception, refugees are not the same as immigrants who cross the U.S. border without authorization. Refugees are people from other countries who have requested asylum, been vetted by the U.S. government, and are ready to be relocated in collaboration with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement and partnering nongovernmental agencies, many of them faith-based.
“I’m very disappointed by the president’s indecision to follow through with his commitment to raise the number of refugees to be resettled in this fiscal year, especially when the country has the capacity to resettle them, the infrastructure to serve them and the manpower ready and excited to love them,” said Elket Rodríguez, CBF’s and Fellowship Southwest’s immigrants and refugees advocacy and missions specialist. “It’s disheartening, because refugees are not a burden to our immigration system. They have already been vetted, and there are American homes ready to welcome them.”
“We ask the president to raise the refugee resettlement admissions goal to 62,500 for this fiscal year—as he promised the American people.”
In March, more than 700 refugees who were scheduled to arrive in the United States had their flights cancelled. That’s why Marc and Kim Wyatt, CBF field personnel and founders of the Welcome House Community Network, are grateful the president’s remarks allow admission of those families who have been waiting for so long to be resettled.
“We are ready to serve refugees who have been waiting for years to be resettled and need to start over a new life,” Marc Wyatt said.
Earlier this year, former President Jimmy Carter commemorated the 41st anniversary of the Refugee Act—which allows refugees to be resettled in the United States—by stressing the values that have forged the nation’s commitment to support persecuted refugees.
“On this 41st anniversary of the Refugee Act, we as Americans can reflect on our decision as a nation to welcome the stranger and renew our commitment to remaining a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere,” Carter wrote in a statement, highlighting the fact he signed the Refugee Act into law in 1980 with bipartisan support, cementing the nation’s commitment to the persecuted.
CBF Advocacy recognizes the importance of coalitions to advocate for immigrants and refugees. The team partners with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC) and the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) to advocate for immigrants and refugees. To sign up for alerts from the Advocacy Action Team for Immigrants and Refugees, click here.