CWS Statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Pertaining to the Nomination of Rex W. Tillerson for Secretary of State
January 11, 2017
As a 71-year old humanitarian organization representing 37 Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox communions and 36 refugee resettlement offices across the country, Church World Service urges the committee to affirm the importance of refugee protection and resettlement during its consideration of the nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. We know from sacred texts that nations will be judged by how they treat the most vulnerable: the widow, the orphan, and the refugee, during trying times.
The Secretary of State is responsible for carrying out the Administration’s foreign policy priorities, handling negotiations on international treaties and foreign affairs, and leveraging U.S. leadership to further diplomatic efforts. Especially now, as the world faces the worst displacement crisis in recorded history, with more than 65 million displaced persons, including 21 million refugees1, the Secretary of State will be at the forefront of providing critical humanitarian assistance overseas and resettling refugees in the United States, both of which promote regional stability and global security.
There are three durable solutions for refugees: return to their home country once it is safe to do so, integrate into the country to which they first fled, or be resettled to a third country. Refugees want to find safety wherever they can, but oftentimes nearby countries do not allow refugees to work, find housing, obtain legal status, or enroll their children in school. When it is not possible for a refugee to return to their home country or rebuild their life in a nearby country, resettlement becomes their last resort. Resettlement is critical to U.S. diplomatic efforts to encourage other countries to keep their doors open to refugees and allow refugees to work and refugee children to attend school. The strategic use of resettlement is key to the implementation of U.S. foreign policy, including fostering partnerships in the Middle East and countering the recruitment narrative used by terrorists that the United States does not care about the Arab world.
The United States is one of 28 resettlement countries, and has a long history of providing protection to persons fleeing persecution. U.S. resettlement efforts were started by faith communities across the country who wanted to help refugees fleeing World War II, and it has always had broad bipartisan support.
We welcomed hundreds of thousands of displaced Europeans during World War II, including Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Throughout the 1980s, we resettled refugees from Vietnam, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. More recently, we’ve welcomed Darfuri refugees fleeing genocide, Bhutanese refugees forced out of their country, Iraqi and Afghan refugees who served alongside the U.S. military, and many other populations in need of lifesaving protection.
CWS calls on the Senate and the incoming Secretary of State to affirm the importance of the refugee resettlement program, which is key to upholding our values of compassion, generosity, and welcome as we face the largest refugee crisis in recorded history. Any efforts to dismantle or curtail the U.S. refugee resettlement program are not reflective of the welcome we see in communities across the country. Refugee resettlement showcases the best virtues of the United States – community, opportunity, hard work, diversity, caring for one another, and courage to start a new life. We must carry on our nation’s proud history of hospitality and moral leadership. Let us reflect the best of our nation by leading by example so that other nations do the same and affirming our collective, moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us.
1 Adrian Edwards, Global forced displacement hits record high, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, June 20, 2016, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html.