A middle ground for refugees

By February 22, 2018

United States (MNN) – Recently, the Trump Administration lifted the ban on refugees from 11 “high-risk” nations – a ban that was put into effect in October 2017. Yet looking at the Administration’s newest restrictions for refugees, it’s clear the waters haven’t quite settled for those fleeing conflicts.

Lowest Admission of Refugees in Years

While the yearly admission of refugees into the United States was set at 110,000 in 2016, President Trump cut the number by half to 53,000 when he entered the office. Now, he has cut the admission to only 45,000 refugees a year and made it clear that is the ceiling amount of refugees to be admitted.

According to The Washington Post, this is the lowest admission of refugees since 1980 when the Refugee Act was first created.

Though the Administration has not specifically named the 11 nations where the ban has been lifted, refugee groups believe they include North Korea and the ten Muslim-majority countries Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

According to the BBC, over the last three years, more than 40 percent of refugees coming to America have fled from these nations.

Bethany Christian Services works in refugee resettlement, helping those who have fled war and conflict to find a safe haven once they’ve reached America. Since the ban, they’ve noted the dramatic decrease in refugees coming from these 11 nations.

(Photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook)

Bethany’s President Chris Palusky says, “This was an unprecedented level of how low the level was. So, the administration has allowed in 45,000 refugees…But even this number, 45,000– it’s kind of being questioned right now. We don’t think you’re going to be able to hit it. We don’t think the Administration is going to be able to hit it with whatever the supreme vetting.”

New Screening Measures

While the U.S. already has some of the hardest screening in the world, the Administration has stated there will be even more extreme vetting.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says, “These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”

According to the New York Times, current vetting can take up to two years for a refugee to be approved. The screening includes background checks, interviews of family members, fingerprinting, and iris scans.

The Administration has refused to share what their specific tactics are for upcoming screening, but have said they will include more in-depth interviews and deep-dive backgrounds.

While Bethany is pleased that the ban has been lifted, they are also concerned in hearing about the new vetting. “What does extreme vetting mean? What does it look like?” Palusky says. “A representative from the administration said, ‘We’re not going to tell you that because we don’t want to give our playbook to the enemy.’ So, it’s to be known, it’s been lifted. But has it really been lifted?”

A Call for Middle Ground

Going forward, Bethany expects to see refugee resettlement numbers decrease in their programs once again. But, they’re taking action.

“We wrote a letter… to the Administration with all of our board members, asking that the number be lifted to 85,000 [refugees] a year,” Palusky says. “We feel it’s a fair number. We feel it’s justified and it’s lower than the previous administration.”

Instead of cutting off tens of thousands of people seeking safety from conflicts, war, and terrorists, this letter calls the U.S. Government to help and to find a middle ground. It calls them to give much-needed help.

While the U.S. government is seeking to protect Americans, Palusky says it’s possible to do both.

“The safety of the American people can be secure without turning backs on those fleeing war, violence, and persecution.”

He says there is often an incorrect stigma about refugees, and as a country, we need to remember the people are fleeing danger. They’re not causing it.

“I think it’s important that people understand who’s coming in,” Palusky says. “Refugees, when they come into the states, they’re not people who are aggressors. Typically, they’re women and children. In fact, 85 percent of the refugees coming into this country are women and children.”

Get Involved

Palusky has worked with refugees for 20 years. He has gotten to know those who have fled as well as their stories that have similarities and differences from each other. Now when he thinks of refugees, he thinks of widows, orphans, and the vulnerable. He thinks of the oppressed – Christians and Muslims alike.

As refugees begin entering the country again, Palusky’s advice for Americans is simple: get to know a refugee.

(Photo by Siddhant Soni on Unsplash)

“They’re not something that I think in latest American society has made up in their mind, that they’re all terrorists – that’s not the case. Please get to know a refugee.”

Bethany assists in refugee resettlement. It sets refugees up with homes, money, and helps them to find occupations to support themselves and their families. They do this while showing them just how much Jesus loves them.

You can get involved with Bethany as they welcome refugees with open arms. Be a friend that gives encouragement and restores hope for the future. Take your first step by going to www.bethany.org.

If you would like another way to help, please pray for those fleeing their homes and countries to find hope in Jesus and that the Lord will provide for and protect them. Pray the government will hear Bethany’s proposal and raise the admission of refugees to 85,000 a year.

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