HOUSTON – The Houston Refugee Consortium calls on Congress to over-ride the Administration’s plan to drastically cut refugee admissions to the U.S. in the coming fiscal year and restore the number to historic norms by setting a refugee admissions goal of 95,000.
In addition to cutting refugee admissions to 18,000 – a historically low number and far less than the current already-reduced limit of 30,000 – President Trump signed an executive order that permits state and local officials to block refugee resettlement in their communities.
These catastrophic cuts come at a time when there are more than 25 million refugees worldwide, half of them children, fleeing persecution, war and violence. Refugees are the most carefully vetted group of all newcomers to the United States. To achieve refugee status, an individual must be facing persecution in their home country and must flee for their own safety. Entry includes collaboration with eight federal agencies, six security databases, five background checks, and three separate in-person interviews.
At a news conference today (Tuesday, October 1, 2019), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “Houston is a welcoming city, and as the mayor I want our refugee neighbors to know that this is our home and we support them in every way…Cutting refugee numbers to these levels will have a negative impact on our local economies, and especially for employers that have traditionally welcomed refugees.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo sent a statement of support that said “We have a moral duty to lead the world in helping people fleeing war and persecution. I know that we have the capacity to welcome more refugees because Harris County serves as a model for the United States.”
The Consortium asks both the White House and Congress to reinstate refugee admissions to a more humane level. Members of Congress can show their support by co-sponsoring the GRACE Act (H.R.2146, S.1088), which would set the minimum annual refugee admissions goal to the previous level.
Individuals can help by contacting their members of Congress. Contact information is available online at www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Or call Texas Senators John Cornyn (202-224-2934) or Ted Cruz (202-224-5922).
The Houston Refugee Consortium comprises six nonprofit agencies who welcome individuals and families to our community, providing support through social services, education and employment assistance: The Alliance, Bilingual Education Institute, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Refugee Services of Texas, and YMCA of Greater Houston.
Leadership from the Houston Refugee Consortium stated their concerns about the reduction in refugee admissions:
Daniel Stoecker, Chief Executive Officer, The Alliance
“The announcements this week signal a devastating shift in our country’s historic standing as a beacon of hope and freedom. The majority of Americans, Texans, and Houstonians want to welcome refugees and understand how they have historically benefitted our communities – enriching our culture, providing needed labor force, and revitalizing communities with thriving businesses that create jobs and generate new tax revenue.”
Natalie Wood, Senior Vice President of Programs, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston:
“Because our faith compels us to welcome the stranger, Catholic Charities provides support for new arrivals who often come to us with nothing more than a bag of belongings and no resources for coping with life in a new country. We are deeply distressed and concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the many individuals waiting to escape from countries in circumstances that threaten their lives.”
Ali Al Sudani, Senior Vice President of Programs and Chief of Staff, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston:
“The new record-low refugee admissions goal is deeply troubling. We ask the community to help us continue to serve refugees in Houston – both new arrivals and those who are already our neighbors. Call your members of Congress and ask them to restore refugee admissions to the minimum annual average of 95,000.”
Kirsten Myers, Area Director, Refugee Services of Texas:
“The administration’s decision to set the refugee admissions goal for next fiscal year at 18,000 is rooted in fear and does not represent the views of the vast majority of the American people. We as Americans must make our voices heard and tell both the White House and Congress that the new record-low refugee admissions goal is morally bankrupt. The future of thousands of families depends on how we respond at this critical moment in time.”
HOUSTON REFUGEE CONSORTIUM AGENCIES
The Alliance works to create opportunities for refugees, immigrants, and underserved residents to achieve their goals for self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life. Founded over 34 years ago, The Alliance provides holistic services and innovative social enterprises to empower residents who face financial, educational, health, language or cultural barriers to realizing their dreams.
Bilingual Education Institution
During the last thirty-seven years, Bilingual Education Institute (BEI) has provided ESL classes to thousands of new immigrants, refugees, asylees, trafficking victims, and visitors from abroad who represent all social, educational, ethnic, and economic levels. BEI has a variety of English courses and student advising services designed to meet the needs of refugee and immigrant students. BEI provides quality teaching to our students, motivating them to achieve in academics, business, and in global and local communities.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston brings help and hope to people in need, especially the poor and vulnerable, through a network of life-changing programs that work together to alleviate poverty, and annually serve about 85,000 people in the Greater Houston region. The Refugee Resettlement Program helps refugees and other government-approved new arrivals achieve economic self-sufficiency. We address their immediate needs when they arrive in the U.S. and offer ongoing help while they adjust to their new life through cultural orientation, education and job development.
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s Refugee Services department, in conjunction with the U.S. State Department and Episcopal Migration Ministries, resettles refugees fleeing their homeland in fear of political, social or religious persecution. Interfaith Ministries helps refugees from around the world make new lives in America and successfully acculturate to American life. Over 90% of the clients we serve are self-sufficient, productive members of the community within 90 days.
Refugee Services of Texas
Founded in 1978, Refugee Services of Texas (RST) is a social-service agency dedicated to providing assistance to refugees and other displaced persons fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group – as well as to the communities that welcome them. RST provides services to hundreds of refugees, asylees, survivors of human trafficking, and related vulnerable populations from over 30 different countries of origin each year.
YMCA International Services is a unique center of the YMCA of Greater Houston that delivers client-centered programs to refugees, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations to advance their economic independence, social integration, and civic participation. The Y helps newcomers restore hope, build stability, create opportunity and change futures. YMCA International Services is continuously recognized as a leader in the Houston immigrant community.