Continue Welcoming Refugees With a Faithful Budget

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This post was originally published on the Do Justice blog.

Throughout the past fifty years, members of the Christian Reformed Church have responded to the call to welcome the stranger and defend the cause of the most vulnerable: refugees. This opportunity has been possible because of the United States’ leadership in resettling refugees from around the world.

After World War II the U.S. led the international community in a robust response to the ensuing humanitarian crisis through national and international human rights legislation, and by admitting 650,000 displaced people. This precedent continued during the Cold War, when it welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict and oppressive communist regimes, including 200,000 Cambodians and Vietnamese in just one year. Today, we are facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and our response is faltering. Despite the United States’ strong legacy of humanitarianism and refugee resettlement, it is poised to offer its weakest response in nearly a century.

Despite the United States’ strong legacy of humanitarianism and refugee resettlement, it is poised to offer its weakest response in nearly a century.

The most recent federal budget proposal includes deep cuts to funds allocated for refugees at home and abroad, and would force severe reductions in essential aid and services provided by the United States. Some assistance, such as the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account, would be entirely eliminated. This account, often used for unexpected humanitarian emergencies, helps stabilize regions that otherwise might deteriorate and produce more refugees. Cuts like these to international programs are harmful since they inhibit the ability of the United States to respond to emerging events that have the potential to worsen the global refugee crisis and increase the need for resettlement.

Cuts like these...inhibit the ability of the United States to respond to emerging events that have the potential to worsen the global refugee crisis and increase the need for resettlement.

Domestic cuts are severe, and represent an over 30 percent decrease in federal funds allocated for resettlement services. These funds are given not only to resettlement agencies, but local schools, hospitals and non-profits to assist in the critical transition period. These organizations would be forced to reduce and eliminate programs that offer vital services to refugees, unaccompanied minors, as well as Iraqis and Afghans who served for years alongside American soldiers. Programs that promote access to healthcare for victims of torture, trafficking and trauma would be eliminated. Organizations that serve unaccompanied minors would have far fewer resources dedicated to ensuring the safety of vulnerable children. These services are essential to helping refugees rebuild their lives and become thriving members of society.

These services are essential to helping refugees  rebuild their lives and become thriving members of society.

The cuts also affect employment programs that allow refugees to enter the workforce  just weeks after they arrive and benefit the U.S. economy. Refugees fuel economic growth by paying taxes, purchasing homes and cars, and opening small businesses that employ Americans. A report in Tennessee showed that refugees contributed twice as much in taxes as was spent on their resettlement costs. A report in Central Ohio found that refugees were twice as likely to open small businesses as the general population.

Refugees make important contributions to the American economy in part because they have resources that assist them in understand how to successfully find employment and build new careers. The cuts made to resettlement programs are self-defeating – they hinder rather than help refugees in their efforts to become self-sufficient and fully integrated into their new communities.

Bethany Christian Services has worked with the government to resettle over 6,000 refugees in communities throughout the U.S. Without a robust, fully funded refugee resettlement program, Bethany cannot do the work that allows churches to come alongside refugees that have recently arrived in the U.S. CRC members have seen the face of God in refugees in their communities and their faith has been changed. The relationships have proven to be mutual -- a blessing to both refugees and those who welcome. When refugee admission numbers are severely cut and programs aren’t funded, or even worse paused, the ministries of CRC congregations are threatened.

Without a robust, fully funded refugee resettlement program, Bethany cannot do the work that allows churches to come alongside refugees that have recently arrived in the U.S.

The United States has a moral and historical imperative to support refugee resettlement. Yet, we are proposing to cut and eliminate funds to address humanitarian crises abroad, welcome less than 50,000 refugees next fiscal year, a historic low,  and enact a steep reduction to funding for resettlement services provided to refugees, unaccompanied minors and those who served alongside American soldiers. The United States should once again lead the international community with a robust response to the refugee crisis by rejecting harmful funding cuts to the resettlement program. Now is the moment for the church to speak into the budget process and urge their members of Congress to fully fund the refugee resettlement program.

So, what can I do?

Send an email, call, or tweet your representatives in Washington asking them to support a faithful budget that fully funds the refugee resettlement program.

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Once upon a time, the federal government required sponsors for immigrants, who would be responsible for the financial needs of the immigrants.  Good system for multiple reasons.

Today, the federal and state government predominantly funds immigrants.  Thus, we need, or want, more federal budget dollars.

I would suggest going backward, in both policy and budgeting.

Why isn't Saudi Arabia and Iran taking muslim refugees from Syria? Why aren't we bringing Christian refugees, who are the most vulnerable?

 

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