Published February 9, 2017
ATLANTA—Catholic Charities Atlanta (CCA) is expressing deep concern about the recent “Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the U.S.,” signed by President Donald Trump.
This order immediately halts the national refugee resettlement program for all refugees and dramatically reduces the ceiling for all refugee arrivals to 50,000 for the government’s current fiscal year. The order bans all Syrians from the U.S. refugee program indefinitely.
As a Catholic Charities agency, CCA welcomes refugee families who come to the United States to start their lives again in safety and dignity. Welcoming vulnerable refugee families, regardless of nationality or religion, is closely tied to both the Catholic and American identities.
The U.S. resettlement program has historical underpinnings in the actions of the Catholic Church and other faith communities. Churches, synagogues and other faith communities continue to stand in partnership to help refugees of all faiths find safety and hope as they start lives as new Americans. Refugee resettlement is the living embodiment of the religious commitment to “welcome the stranger.”
Vanessa Russell, CEO of Catholic Charities Atlanta, reminds all that “the Catholic Church believes that immigrants and refugees are among the most vulnerable in our society. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted because of their faith. They deserve our care and protection.”
The U.S. provides this care and protection through the Refugee Act of 1980. Refugees are the most rigorously screened migrant population coming into America. This screening happens before they ever set foot in the country. With the security measures currently in place, law enforcement and the U.S. Department of State are ensuring the public’s safety and protecting the tradition of welcoming those fleeing violence.
In addition to the protection the refugee program offers, it brings in new community residents who are contributing members of society. Ninety-four percent of refugees participating in Catholic Charities Atlanta’s early self-sufficiency program are paying their own bills and taxes less than 180 days after arriving in the United States.
Georgia welcomes nearly 3,000 refugees each year and those refugees contribute to the state’s economy and to communities in significant ways. They work in the state’s most vital industries including hospitality, food processing, and manufacturing.
The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. According to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, there are 21.3 million refugees worldwide, and over half are under the age of 18. Less than 1 percent of the refugees are resettled in a third country like the United States each year. The dramatic reduction in U.S. refugee admissions recently announced decreases that number even further.
In his address to Congress in September 2015, Pope Francis reminded all to “treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities, which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves … The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
Catholic Charities Atlanta remains in solidarity with those the agency serves.
Russell urges the public not to forget the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, the nation’s most iconic symbol of freedom: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”