September 26, 2019

Washington, D.C. — In response to reports that the Trump administration plans to set the Fiscal Year 2020 refugee admissions goal at 18,000, an unprecedented record-low that effectively dismantles the U.S. resettlement program, as well as today’s executive order that permits state and local officials to block resettlement in their communities, CWS President and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough issued the following statement:

“With one final blow, the Trump administration has snuffed out Lady Liberty’s torch and ended our nation’s legacy of compassion and welcome. The darkness of this day will extend for years, if not decades, to come. 

This is nothing short of a refugee ban. Cutting America’s life-saving refugee program to such extreme lows is a terrible mistake that will put the lives of thousands of refugee families–the most desperate cases in the world–at dire risk. It will destroy the lives of former refugees in the United States who have been desperately waiting for their children, their parents, their most precious loved ones to arrive. It will destabilize key allies and destroy what is left of our nation’s moral example. It will annihilate the vital infrastructure and support services that the United States has taken decades to build.

Cutting the refugee program to what is effectively zero while circumventing Congress and allowing states and local governments to ban refugees is a death blow to the program that has saved the lives of millions. 

This tragic decision is an affront to people of faith and people of conscience across the nation who have dedicated their lives and opened their communities to refugee families. The refugee resettlement program was built by communities of faith who sought to respond with compassion to the world’s worst displacement crises. 

Congress must not continue to stand by as the Trump administration systematically blocks all vulnerable people from accessing protection in our country. We implore Congress to ensure there is a full consultation with the administration and to demand that the refugee admissions goal be set at 95,000 in line with our nation’s historic commitments and capacity to welcome.”

Since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, the United States has set an average admissions goal of 95,000 refugees annually. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, refugee admissions have been severely cut, causing irreparable damage to refugee families, American communities, and the infrastructure in place to welcome and support new arrivals. Across the country, hundreds of elected officials, congregations, and business leaders have been showing their support for refugee resettlement. Congress should support the GRACE Act (S.1088 and H.R.2146), which would set a minimum refugee admissions goal at 95,000 and restore the resettlement program to historic norms.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, 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



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