Evangelicals Urge President Biden to Revise Refugee Resettlement Ceiling Immediately
Originally Published by The Evangelical Immigration Table on April 16, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Evangelical leaders are expressing dismay and disappointment that the Biden administration has not followed through on a commitment to raise the ceiling for refugee resettlement for the current fiscal year.
As of the halfway point, the U.S. is on pace to admit only 4,100 refugees this fiscal year, which would be the lowest level in the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s history.
The following are quotes from individual leaders of evangelical organizations. Additional context follows the quotes.
Scott Arbeiter, President, World Relief:
"Most evangelicals probably expected to disagree with President Biden on some policy issues, but his campaign commitments to rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program led us to believe we’d be able to celebrate his actions in this area. We cheered announcements in the first weeks of the new administration that a revised refugee ceiling was forthcoming and have been actively preparing to welcome more refugees in collaboration with local church partners. So it has been deeply disappointing to see the signing of the presidential determination delayed without explanation for months. It has been particularly devastating for families whom we serve whose hopes to be reunified with family members have been deferred. We implore the president to follow through on his commitment immediately."
Walter Kim, President, National Association of Evangelicals:
"For more than four decades, evangelicals have played a leading role in welcoming and resettling refugees who have been forced from their homes because of who they are or what they believe. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has been a beacon of hope to the persecuted and an inspiring example to the world. President Biden campaigned on a pledge to rebuild our refugee resettlement program. Tragically, this promise remains unfulfilled, leaving tens of thousands of refugees in uncertainty and despair."
Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
"Rhetoric is no refuge for the persecuted — we need action. The refugee resettlement ceiling should be raised immediately so our nation can welcome those we already vetted. The refugee program is distinct from other paths of immigration and unrelated crises should not distract us from doing what’s right for refugees. We know the program is a secure and thorough process by which America can serve as a beacon of freedom and safe harbor for the oppressed, including persecuted Christians and other imperiled religious minorities. President Biden must make good on his word and any further delay is unacceptable."
Chris Palusky, President & CEO, Bethany Christian Services:
"The Biden administration pledged to restore and reinvigorate America’s historic commitment to resettling vulnerable people who were forced to flee their homes and countries. Yet, as we approach the end of the first 100 days of the new administration, policies that harm the most vulnerable remain in place. This delay is a travesty. Jesus teaches Christians to care for the overlooked and the ignored, love our neighbor, and welcome the stranger. Christian churches and nonprofits that resettle refugees and reunify families are ready to answer this biblical call, but we can’t live out our mission until the administration follows through on their commitment."
Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition:
"As evangelical pastors, we have long expressed a commitment to welcoming refugees who very often are fleeing some of the most perilous human challenges. We deeply lament the delay by the administration in raising the refugee resettlement ceiling. The time has come to move forward on this campaign commitment with what Dr. King called 'the fierce urgency of now.' "
Evangelical leaders have long affirmed the importance of a robust refugee resettlement program, which allows the U.S. government to offer safety and freedom to vulnerable people after a careful vetting process overseas. As evangelical Christians, our commitment to refugees is rooted in the biblical belief that each of these individuals is a person made in the image of God with inherent dignity, whose lives are worth protecting.
Many refugees are individuals who were persecuted for their faith. Others have fled persecution as a result of their ethnicity, their opposition to tyrannical governments or their service as translators serving alongside the U.S. military.
Evangelical leaders repeatedly lamented the reduction in the refugee ceiling under the previous administration and praised the Biden administration’s February announcement that it would be rebuilding the refugee resettlement program and resetting the refugee ceiling for the current year. But months after informing Congress of an "emergency" need to raise the refugee ceiling to 62,500 for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, the ceiling remains at the historically low level of 15,000.
As a direct result, more than 700 individuals approved for resettlement have had their already booked travel plans canceled. Some will not be allowed to travel immediately even once the ceiling is signed, because required health and security screenings will have expired and need to be restarted, further delaying reunification with family in the U.S. in many cases.
In March, the leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table urged President Biden to immediately reset the refugee ceiling as promised, noting that a revitalized U.S. refugee resettlement program could be part of a long-term solution to repeated crises of unacceptable conditions for children at the U.S.-Mexico border. A month later, the revised refugee ceiling remains unsigned. The Evangelical Immigration Table urges President Biden to follow through on his commitment immediately, without further delay.
The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.