News from the Week of February 4th

This week, the Trump Administration announced that refugees from 11 “high risk” countries will once again be admitted to the United States now that the latest 90-day travel ban has expired. Individuals from these mostly Muslim-majority nations, however, must now contend with additional screening measures including “deep-dive” background checks and more “in-depth” interviews. Refugee resettlement officials argue that increased measures will make it harder for individuals from Muslim countries to qualify for approval and find safe haven within our borders. As the debate continues, it is important to remember that no refugee has ever carried out a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

On January 31, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided to extend, but not redesignate, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 6,000 Syrians living in the United States. While this was welcome news from those who arrived in the United States before August 2016, roughly 2,000 Syrians who arrived after August 1, 2016 may not be eligible to stay under the new ruling. Veterans for American Ideals echoes the sentiments of RCUSA and other faith, human rights, and community leaders in urging the administration not only to extend Temporary Protected Status for Syria, but also to redesignate it for those most in need.

This week brought good news for approximately 800 service members whose military service and immigration status were put in limbo by the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program – they will not be deported. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that he has finalized an agreement with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to put the military’s ”Dreamers” in a protected status.

Interfaith leaders across the world continue to advocate on behalf of marginalized communities and call for the global protection of religious minorities. On Tuesday, 400 Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders united and signed the 'Washington Declaration' for religious tolerance at the "Alliance of Virtue" conference. The declaration rejects polarization, calls for unity, and seeks to promote diversity and religious freedom. Christian leaders also joined together this week to oppose President Trump’s refugee resettlement cap. More than 500 evangelical leaders and pastors sent a letter to members of Congress and President Trump expressing how deeply troubled they are by the dramatic reduction in arrivals of refugees to the United States.

Van Taylor, a Republican from Texas, and Pat Ryan, a Democrat from New York, are both running for Congress. These men have chosen to put their ideological differences aside to bridge the partisan divide. Taylor and Ryan are both veterans who have decided to sign a pledge to “join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on at least one piece of major legislation each year, and to meet with someone from the opposing party one-on-one at least once a month.”

This week, the PBS program "We'll Meet Again," featured a 78-year-old Vietnam veteran who began a mission in 1979 to help stranded Vietnamese refugees escape by boat to Singapore. Veteran Gary Ferguson also worked to smuggle 68 refugees out of Indonesia and labored to help refugees in Cambodia.

Refugee of the Week: Refugee athlete from South Sudan, Yiech Pur Biel, joined the International Olympic Committee's Truce Mural ceremony for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Pur shared a message of peace and hope: “to young refugees aspiring to become diligent and have faith…Refugee is only a name. It is important what you carry inside it,” he said.