Bethany on U.S. refugee resettlement cap: “We have room for refugees”

September 26, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Nathan Bult (202) 819-1387 [email protected]

Grand Rapids, Michigan, 9/26/2019 — Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit that has supported refugee children and families for more than four decades, expressed their strong opposition to the Administration’s decision to lower the refugee resettlement cap in the U.S. to 18,000 in Fiscal Year 2020.

“Shrinking the refugee resettlement program threatens the lives of thousands of children and families escaping violence and persecution,” said Chris Palusky, Bethany’s President and CEO. “Bethany will do everything possible to advocate for all of God’s children – no matter where they are from or what they have been through – and will continue to serve as many refugees as possible. The lives of millions of displaced children and families depend on it.”

The U.S. has welcomed around 3 million refugees since 1975.1 But as the global refugee crisis has escalated in recent years, U.S. refugee admissions have declined. In 2016, the U.S. accepted nearly 85,000 refugees, which decreased to 54,000 in 2017. The resettlement cap was further lowered to 45,000 for 2018 and then to 30,000 for 2019 – all of which were historic lows.2

The U.S. will resettle approximately 30,000 refugees in FY2019 and more than 30,000 more are ready for resettlement but remain in refugee camps. More than 30 refugees who were scheduled for resettlement through Bethany before October 22 have already had their plane tickets cancelled.

Those 30 individuals must again undergo the vetting process for admission to the U.S. – now more unlikely than ever before. Many have relatives in the U.S., who are awaiting reunification. The decision announced today will keep families apart.

Two unaccompanied refugee minors, like Hefzur and Rohim, have had their plane tickets to safety in the U.S. cancelled. They will now be forced to continue waiting alone in refugee camps.

At its establishment in 1980 under President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. refugee resettlement program welcomed more than 200,0003 refugees and has admitted an average of roughly 95,000 refugees per year since. This is because the U.S. is equipped with the infrastructure to resettle refugees through organizations like Bethany in communities that are eager to welcome them.

“There are truly no solid grounds – certainly not moral, ethical, or logistical – for refusing to admit those seeking safety and refuge in our world. We have room for refugees. We have the systems in place to help them. Bethany has been doing this for 40 years!” Palusky continued. “Our Christian faith and humanity affirm our duty to welcome and support those who are persecuted and vulnerable, particularly children and religious minorities. Our country has been a beacon of safety, hope, and freedom for centuries. We can and must do better.”

Right now, Bethany will focus on serving refugees where it can within the U.S. and through its global offices.

“In Bogotá and Cúcuta, we are serving thousands of Venezuelan refugees fleeing to Colombia,” said Sara Matarazzo, Bethany’s Country Director in Colombia. “We are working to keep families together and, in the case of unaccompanied minors, to keep kids out of institutions. We’re doing everything we can to fight for refugees.”

“We are working in refugee camps in southern Ethiopia, where we are the only mental health care service provider in a camp of more than 20,000 people,” said Dawit Fekadu, Bethany’s Country Director in Ethiopia. “These individuals have survived unimaginable trauma and we offer help not only through counseling, but also by going door-to-door with information on trauma-informed parenting. We have had a huge response to that.”

To learn more visit Bethany.org/refugees

1 “Refugees in America”. UNHCR. https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/usa/ 2 “Fact Sheet: U.S. Refugee Resettlement”. National Immigration Forum. https://immigrationforum.org/article/fact-sheet-u-s-refugee-resettlement/. January 29, 2019. 3 “U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings and Number of Refugees Admitted, 1980-Present”. Migration Policy Institute. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/us-annual-refugee-resettlement-ceilings-and-number-refugees-admitted-united

About Bethany Bethany is a global nonprofit that supports children and families with world-class social services, all designed to help families thrive. Over 75 years ago, we began our work by serving a single child. Today, we work in more than 30 states and more than a dozen countries worldwide, serving more than 50,000 people every year. Bethany has been committed to supporting refugees – those forced from their homes because of their faith, their political beliefs, or their ethnicity– for over 40 years. Through a network of 150 churches, individuals, and over 600 businesses that employ refugees in several states across the nation, resettled individuals and families have become a vibrant, integral part of our communities.