CWS Hails 40th Anniversary of 1980 Refugee Act, Calls for Restoration of Lifesaving Resettlement Program and Asylum System

March 17, 2020

During the worst refugee crisis in history, the United States has a moral imperative to revive its legacy of welcome

Washington, D.C.: Church World Service today celebrates the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Refugee Act of 1980, powerful legislation that established the U.S. refugee resettlement program and firmly placed into law the United States’ role as a compassionate leader in times of turmoil. Under the Trump administration, however, refugee admissions have been severely cut, by 80 percent, causing irreparable damage to refugee families, American communities, and the infrastructure in place to welcome and support new arrivals. 

“Today is a bittersweet anniversary for Americans. What should be a celebration of 40-years of leadership by the United States, is instead a tragic reminder of how far the current administration has gone in removing vital protections for the world’s most vulnerable. Today, the refugee resettlement program is a shadow of what it once was and our asylum system has been turned on its head. Lady Liberty’s torch is less and less a beacon for those seeking lives free from danger, having been extinguished by white-nationalism, nativism, and xenophobia,” said Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service. “Forty years ago leaders from both sides of the aisle knew that partisan rhetoric had no place when it came to compassionate global leadership. It is in that spirit that we call on Congress to return to its historic commitment and fulfill the promise of the Refugee Act of 1980.”

Since this date forty years ago, the United States has resettled over three million refugees across the nation. Those who arrived through the vital resettlement program have become part of American communities as neighbors, congregants, coworkers, business owners, community leaders, taxpayers, and elected leaders.

CWS calls on Congress to, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary, pass the Refugee Protection Act (H.R.5210, S.2936), the GRACE Act (H.R.2146, S.1088), and the NO BAN Act (H.R.2214, S.1123), which together would safeguard and strengthen the life-saving refugee resettlement program and asylum protections – and put our nation back on track as a humanitarian leader.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, resettling over 860,000 refugees, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty. Learn more about our work and join our global homebase for refugee solidarity at

For more information or to speak with CWS, contact Christopher Plummer at