STATEMENT – LIRS Responds to Historic Low Refugee Admissions Ceiling

For Immediate Release:
September 27, 2017

MEDIA CONTACT:
Danielle Bernard
dbernard@lirs.org; 410-230-2888

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, it was reported that the Trump Administration intends to set the annual admissions ceiling for refugees at 45,000 for the coming fiscal year – the lowest goal since the start of the modern U.S. refugee admissions program in 1980. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is profoundly disappointed that at a time of historic, never before seen need, the United States would so drastically reduce the number of refugees to whom we are able to offer protection and safety.

“Churches and communities, employers and mayors, are heartsick at the Administration’s callous and tragic decision to deny welcome to refugees most in need” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “We are not afraid of our new neighbors and are not fooled by cruel and false claims that refugees are a threat to our safety. The American legacy of welcoming refugees has made us stronger and better, and the government’s own research proves that refugees bring economic benefit to our country through their hard work.”

At no time in mankind’s collective memory have so many been without a home. There are over 22.5 million refugees in the world, half of whom are children. Despite this overwhelming need, last year only 85,000 refugees were resettled through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). For this coming fiscal year, that number has been nearly cut in half. The decision to so drastically reduce the number of resettlement spaces we offer will only serve to deepen the global displacement crisis and undermine our values as Americans.

“At a time when we are in the worst refugee crisis the world has ever seen, the United States is cutting refugee resettlement to half of what it was last year, and a quarter of what it was in 1980” said Bishop Michael Rinehart, LIRS Chairman of the Board and head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. “At a time when the world needs us desperately, it seems we are shutting the door on the Statue of Liberty. I pray that America does not lose its heart and soul.”

Today’s announcement will mean that tens-of-thousands of vulnerable refugees, including torture survivors, unaccompanied refugee children, those with severe medical needs, and persecuted religious minorities, will continue to be left in harm’s way.

LIRS and other resettlement organizations have been strongly advocating that the U.S. offer safety and protection to at least 75,000 refugees for the coming fiscal year. Not only has this number been supported by Congress and aligned with historic averages, it is also supported by state and local leaders across the country. Historically, the U.S. has been the global leader in offering protection to refugees. At this urgent moment of such disproportionate global displacement, we cannot turn our backs on those who need our help.

We call on Congress and the Administration to recognize that our common humanity demands us to do better than this. The United States is capable of far more. LIRS, and the communities across the country who partner with us in this work, stand ready to welcome the stranger and treat the sojourner as we would our own citizens, neighbors, and family.

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.