U.S. churches speak as one in solidarity with migrants and refugees
United in their resolve to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” 37 faith communities are speaking out as one for the immigrant, the refugee and the asylum seekers. The religious leaders are calling on the Biden administration to “expand welcome” in the United States.
In a “2021 Ecumenical Declaration: Expand Welcome,” the churches are calling for compassion and welcome to all people “regardless of where they are from, how they pray or what language they speak.” It is both an ecumenical pledge and an urgent call for grassroots action.
Leaders of the National Council of Churches, Church World Service and dozens of member communions that belong to them have signed the declaration, including the Rev. John Dorhauer, United Church of Christ general minister and president.
“We commit to restoring American leadership to address the global displacement crisis,” the statement reads. “We are in a critical moment that calls us to hold our leaders accountable to the moral responsibility of turning the principles of mercy and justice into concrete action.”
Executive orders ‘are a start’
Since taking office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden has issued executive orders to begin reversing his predecessor’s immigration and asylum policies, which UCC leaders have described as anti-immigrant. In late February, Biden promised to restore the refugee admissions program, with a commitment to raise the goal to 125,000 people in 2022. He also issued a revised admissions goal for Fiscal Year 2021 to 62,500. But he’s yet to sign that Presidential Determination and send it to Congress.
“The U.S. reduction in resettlement ceilings for the past four years contributed to the current crisis, with the U.S. not playing a part in the resettlement,” said the Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC associate general minister. “We are encouraged by the steps being taken by President Biden.”
“The increases in resettlement protocols are a start,” she said. “However, there is more to be done as is being called for by the ecumenical community.”
Other immediate action urged by the churches, in addition to the increase in the number of refugee admissions this year:
- Reinvest in the refugee referral pipeline and rebuild the system to meet that admission goal.
- Not just end the Migrant Protection Protocols, which keep people in Mexico. Open and expand the process to hear their cases.
- End the ban on family immigration.
- Fully restore U.S. asylum policies.
‘Faith compels us’
“The plight of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers has grown more desperate over the past year. The conditions which drive people from their homes – such as war, famine, persecution, and lack of economic opportunity – have all been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said the Rev. Joshua Baird, leader of the UCC Global H.O.P.E. team.
There are 79.5 million people displaced worldwide, including more than 29 million refugees, more than half of whom are children.
“Now is the time for the Biden Administration to reverse inhumane policies of its predecessor,” Baird said. “We join the Ecumenical Declaration for Expanding Welcome because our faith compels us to welcome the stranger and to see in their face the very face of Christ.”
The faith community is also asking the Biden administration to go further by suspending deportation and terminating Title 42 expulsions.
Six strategic goals
The declaration notes its signers, which include the UCC, Alliance of Baptists, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and other traditions, have pledged to work together to meet six goals to mobilize their congregations and rebuild welcome:
- Request a meeting with Biden to immediately revise the FY 2021 refugee admissions goals. Help church communities assist refugees in the U.S. by rebuilding the infrastructure that supports them.
- Call on members of Congress to help end anti-asylum, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee policies and pass inclusive reforms that create a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people and push back against criminalization of immigrants.
- Encourage local congregations to organize meetings with local, state and national policy makers to talk about faith-based solidarity for welcome.
- Commit to resourcing, supporting and standing with congregations that organize public demonstrations of welcome for refugee, asylum seekers and immigrants
- Commit to supporting refugees already in the U.S. or those who come in the months ahead, as well as supporting the work of rebuilding the capacity of the U.S. Refugee Assistance Program.
- Commit to work to dedicate one Sunday in 2021 to engage all member congregations in honoring the journey of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.
The faith communities and the government need to work together to help displaced people find a better life, Baird said. “We need the federal government to take a pro-active position toward allowing refugees and asylees into the country, and we need the engagement of churches and social service agencies to welcome them, to show them hospitality, and to accompany them on this next stage of their journey.”
The Ecumenical Declaration and all its signatories can be found here.
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