Advocates for refugees point out that the massive and chaotic flow of refugees into Europe doesn’t compare to the smaller and more rigorous process in the United States, where government agencies vet candidates before approval.
“Most refugees from the Middle East are women and children who have suffered the assaults of ISIS terrorists and civil war,” said NAE president Leith Anderson. “We have the opportunity to rescue, help, and bless some of the world’s most oppressed and vulnerable families.”
Based on World Relief’s 40 years of experience with resettling refugees, the organization encouraged American Christians to not let self-protection prevent them from assisting the vulnerable.
“The question for the American Christian is: Will we speak out on behalf of those who are running from the very terror that we are rightly trying to put an end to?” he asked. “People who are running from Mosul and Aleppo and a thousand other places on fire?
“Would we be willing to accept giving up a 1 in 3 billion chance of our safety in order to make room for them?” he continued. “Or would we say, ‘I am not willing to give up even the smallest fraction of my safety to welcome people who have been vetted very carefully, who have been proven as a remarkable population of people. Will I not make room for them?’”
The order halts the process for all refugees on their way to the United States, from those applying (it usually takes at least 18 months) to those with plane tickets already, said Arbeiter. News reports Saturday indicated refugees and visa-holders restricted under the order were already being detained at airports. A majority of refugees that World Relief works with—more than 70 percent—come to be united with family already in America.
After visiting refugee camps in the Middle East, Vickie Reddy, executive producer of the Justice Conference, signed up to assist a family resettling in Chicago. “Today’s order means our team’s hope of welcoming a family in the next month is not going to happen,” she said. “Maybe we can be matched with a family that is already here. I am not sure.”
During a peak month last fall, World Relief resettled 45 refugees a day at 27 locations across America. Leaders now fear they won’t be able to sustain their networks and infrastructure without refugees to serve.
“I can’t see how refugee resettlement offices will be able to survive any period of time where there is a moratorium on refugees being resettled. If offices around the country have to close their doors, that will be a tragedy,” said Reddy, an advocate with the evangelical umbrella group We Welcome Refugees. “How will they then be ready again once the program restarts—if the program restarts? The news devastates me, because I know what it means for so many. I also know the message of hate that it sends.”
Earlier this week, We Welcome Refugees exceeded its goal of 10,000 signatures on its online solidarity statement. The group—which includes World Vision, Willow Creek Community Church, Q, OM, and the World Evangelical Alliance, in addition to World Relief and the NAE—urged elected officials “to work with welcoming communities to assist refugees wherever they are in tangible and practical ways.”