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Imagine, if you would, this scenario: The federal government, at the instruction of the president, announces that in 2020 only those patients with broken bones will be admitted into hospitals. No one else.

The reaction would be swift and fierce. Those suffering from other ailments would demand services. Family members would advocate for change. The arguments for keeping the hospitals open would be myriad. We have the resources. We have the hospitals. We have the staff. The need is great. It's who we are; we take care of people who are sick and injured.

Now consider an actual situation. A week ago, President Trump proposed a record low refugee admission number for next year of 18,000. Since the start of the modern refugee program, the average admission per year has been 85,000.

Given the great need for refugee resettlement, with millions of people seeking refuge the world over, 18,000 is a paltry number, like limiting hospitals only to those with broken bones, when our nation has the resources and the room and the capacity to welcome so many more.

This reduction in refugee admissions will have two devastating consequences. First, it will leave thousands of refugees ready for resettlement languishing in camps. This is tragic enough. But it will also devastate refugee resettlement programs in the United States. It is in fact "tantamount to ending the resettlement program altogether" (Emily Linn, Canopy NWA). "In order to successfully resettle refugees across the country, the U.S. government relies on a network of established, trusted agencies such as Canopy, working in tandem with their communities. Eighteen thousand refugees is not enough to sustain this network; dozens more organizations will have to close. This means that when the time comes for refugee resettlement to increase again, there may not be the infrastructure in place to all that to happen."

Donald Trump's proposal is a direct attack on core ministries of religious communities across our country. Refugee resettlement is what churches and synagogues and faith-based organizations do. To dismantle it is to use the power of the federal government to dismantle the work of the church and people of faith.

It will also leave thousands of families separated from each other. Family members of refugees already here in Northwest Arkansas who had been scheduled to travel this fall are now left in limbo. It could be years before they will be able to see their loved ones.

The lowering of our refugee admissions levels is also a direct undermining of the core identity of our nation. We have always been and can always be a nation that offers refuge. "We have a proud history of providing refuge to our world's most vulnerable, and they in turn have built this country up and made it great." (Emily Linn).

I know from long experience that faith communities in Northwest Arkansas, and all across our country, are willing and ready to resettle many more refugees. But the only way we will reclaim our identity as a nation for and of refugees is if people of faith speak out and strategically advocate for resettlement. Congress will still be evaluating this proposed ceiling before it goes into effect, so we all have the chance to indicate to our elected officials that we want them to partner with us in making space for refugees in our communities and celebrate the gifts so many refugees who are already here bring.

NAN Religion on 10/05/2019

Print Headline: Open doors is hallmark of country

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