November 19, 2015 — The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States is urging members of Congress to oppose efforts to suspend the U.S. refugee resettlement program or restrict funding for Syrians and other groups of refugees.
The Conference joined over 80 other humanitarian agencies, including Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, in signing a letter to Congressional representatives that noted that the U.S. is “a welcoming country with a diverse society and that the resettlement program must continue to reflect this.”
Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuits of Canada and the United States, speaks on-site at the White House in Washington, D.C., in favor of welcoming more refugees from the Middle East to the U.S.
The letter came after a number of U.S. governors announced that they want to stop their states from resettling Syrian refugees and some members of Congress introduced legislation that would stop refugee resettlement altogether.
"Statements conflating refugees and terrorists lead us down a really unfortunate path. Syrian refugees are trying to escape from the very terror that we saw so vividly illustrated in the coordinated attacks in Beirut, Paris and Baghdad," said Shaina Aber, Policy Director for the Jesuit Conference.
The letter noted that refugees are “the most thoroughly vetted group of people who come to the United States,” and the screening process typically takes two years before the refugee would arrive in the U.S.
The letter says that “to turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation's core values. We can welcome refugees while ensuring our own security. Refugees have enriched communities across our country and have been part of the American fabric for generations.”
Father Tom Smolich, SJ, international director of Jesuit Refugee Service, said, “The idea of only taking Christian refugees is contrary to what we stand for as an immigrant nation. It says we’re afraid. Fear is never a place to make decisions. It’s contrary to where God is calling us. And frankly — it’s bad policy.”