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July 9, 2020

 

The Honorable Mike Pence

Vice President

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

West Executive Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

The Honorable Michael Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

 

-VIA EMAIL-

 

Re: Resettlement Needed for Refugees Including Those Fleeing Religious Persecution

Dear Vice President Pence and Secretary Pompeo,

We write to you out of concern for refugees fleeing religious persecution and other critical needs for resettlement. We have a strong commitment to religious freedom and protection of vulnerable refugees, including support for and partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). We appreciate the Trump Administration’s prioritization of protecting religious freedom and religious minorities as acknowledged in the National Security Strategy, and promoted by two Religious Freedom Ministerials, noted in the recent 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom[1] and advanced through the June 2 Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom. We also take this opportunity to commend the Trump Administration for keeping the door open for urgent resettlement cases during the COVID-19 crisis.

In that collaborative spirit, we urge you to exercise flexibility in your administration of USRAP by reallocating the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Presidential Determination (PD) refugee categories to ensure that the refugee program can maximize its life-saving mission amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. With low arrival numbers in the categories of Iraqi P-2s (86) and Central Americans (255)[2], we urge you to expand resettlement in the two other admission categories to reach the full 18,000 FY20 PD, including by increasing slots for refugees fleeing religious persecution. Additionally, if COVID-19 prevents full resumption of the refugee program and as a result, there is a shortfall in reaching 18,000 refugees resettled for FY 2020, we urge you to:

  • increase the refugee admissions in the FY 2021 PD beyond the FY2020 level of 18,000 by at least the number not resettled from the FY 2020 allocation;
  • count refugees who were ready for departure in FY 2020 toward the FY 2020 PD, even if they arrive in FY21; and
  • return, as soon as possible, to average historical admission levels of 75,000 or more so that the U.S. program is commensurate with global need, and traditional U.S. global leadership on this issue is restored, given that we face the largest forced global displacement crisis on record.

With implementation of these changes, it is estimated that 15,000 more refugees fleeing religious persecution alone would be protected through refugee resettlement.[3] We view this as an issue of extreme importance especially given the precipitous decline of resettlement of refugees facing religious persecution in recent years: for example, the number of Iraqi Christians resettled declined 94.2% from FY 2016 to FY 2019, from 1524 individuals to 89 individuals, and the number of Jewish refugees resettled from Iran declined 97.2% from FY 2016 to FY 2019, from 72 individuals to 2 individuals.[4]

“We cannot, nor should we look the other way when, in many parts of the world, believers of different religious denominations are persecuted,” Pope Francis has said. “The use of religion to incite hated, violence, oppression, extremism and blind fanaticism, cries out to God.”[5] Protection of religious minorities, including Christians, is an extremely important issue for Catholics worldwide and in the United States[6] as well as Evangelicals[7].

In the coming months, we urge you to flexibly adjust USRAP operations and in the coming fiscal year, we urge you to pursue the above described recommendations to increase the number of lives the United States saves through resettlement, including the lives of thousands of families fleeing religious persecution. We pledge to work with you on this and welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how we can move forward in the vital work of protecting individuals and families persecuted on account of religion both in the United States and worldwide. Please feel free to follow up with the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Policy Director, Ashley Feasley at afeasley@usccb.org and USCCB International Justice and Peace Office Director, Lucas Koach at lkoach@usccb.org to arrange a meeting with the undersigned for further discussion. We welcome the chance to dialogue on this important matter.

 

Yours truly,

Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville

Auxiliary Bishop of Washington

Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

 

Most Reverend David J. Malloy

Bishop of Rockford,

Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace

 

Most Reverend Thomas Wenski

Archbishop of Miami

Chairman, USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty

 

Scott Arbeiter

President

World Relief

 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Donald Kerwin

Executive Director

Center for Migration Studies

 

Walter Kim

President

National Association of Evangelicals

 

Donna J. Markham OP, PhD, ABPP

President & CEO

Catholic Charities USA

 

Russell Moore
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

 

Chris Palusky

President & CEO

Bethany Christian Services

 

Joan Rosenhauer

Executive Director

Jesuit Refugee Service

 

Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo

Secretary General

International Catholic Migration Commission

 

[1]2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State, June 20, 2020, available at https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom /  At the roll out of the 2019 Report, Secretary Pompeo stated: “There is no other nation that cares so deeply about religious freedom, that we gather accounts from all across the world – it’s an enormous, it’s a comprehensive accounting of this fundamental human right.”
[2] Refugee Processing Center, Arrivals by Admission Category, June 5, 2020, https://www.wrapsnet.org/admissions-and-arrivals/
[3] “Statement of Barbara L. Strack, Retired, Former Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security (2005-2018),” page 6, Hearing on The Current State of the U.S. Refugee Program, House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration & Citizenship, February 27, 2020, https://www.congress.gov/116/meeting/house/110569/witnesses/HHRG-116-JU01-Wstate-StrackB-20200227.pdf
[4] Data compiled by World Relief. All data is reported from the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center (www.wrapsnet.org) as of September 30, 2019.  Religious affiliation is self-reported and various denominations within a particular religious tradition (i.e., Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, simply “Christian,” etc.,) have been aggregated by Matthew Soerens of World Relief. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups that self-identify as Christians are included in that category, even though some other Christians would classify them as a distinct religious tradition. Years reported are fiscal years lasting from October 1 through September 30, not calendar years.
[5]Inés San Martín, “Pope, UN chief decry religious violence, including against Christians, Crux, Dec. 21, 2019
 available at https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/12/pope-un-chief-decry-religious-violence-including-against-christians/
[6]Catholic News Service, “Survey: Number of Catholics concerned about Christian persecution rises”
Mar. 21, 2019, https://www.ncronline.org/news/quick-reads/survey-number-catholics-concerned-about-christian-persecution-rises
[7] In 2017 National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson wrote to President Trump, “Christians and churches have been welcoming refugees for 2,000 years, and evangelicals are committed to continue this biblical mission. Thousands of U.S. evangelicals and their churches have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past 40 years through World Relief and other federally approved resettlement agencies. We don’t want to stop now.”  https://www.nae.net/nae-calls-president-trump-continue-resettling-refugees/