Catholic Charities of Onondaga County is disheartened to learn that President Trump intends to reduce the number of refugees accepted into the United States from 45,000 to 30,000 in FY 2019. The 45,000 ceiling set in FY 2018, is the lowest in the history of the modern refugee program, which dates back to 1980. The drop to 30,000 represents a new low, not only in the number of refugees welcomed to safety, but in the United States’ humanitarian commitment to people fleeing war, terror and oppression. This reduction in the nation’s commitment to refugees comes at a point when the number of people forced from their homelands exceeds 25 million, the highest number of refugees since the Second World War.
Refugees are no different than every American. They are mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents. They love their families, their friends, and their homelands, but by fate and birthplace they have been rendered stateless, homeless, and desperate to survive. The United States was founded by people in similar circumstances, and in our best and strongest moments as a country, our leaders remembered the ideals and struggles of these founders.
Today, our national leaders are struggling to honor the values and ideals that this nation was built on: that all people are created equal, and that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Refugees, the world’s most vulnerable people, have taken the brunt of this shift in values. These victims of terrorism are being labeled and shunned as terrorists, their real human stories obstructed by walls of fear and hatred. The decision to close the door to thousands of refugees, for whom there are no other viable options, demonstrates an astounding disregard for people whose very lives are in danger.
Yet, there is hope. It is time for our faith communities, and all people of conscience, to guide our national leaders back to the values, compassion, and belief in human dignity that make our nation strong. The call to welcome the stranger exists in every faith tradition, and every faith tradition mandates love and concern for others. Our faith communities must take the lead in advocating for refugees, calling for justice, compassion, and human rights. As Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Program Officer, Refugee Resettlement Services
Catholic Charities of Onondaga County