WASHINGTON - More than 500 evangelical Christian leaders and pastors in the United States called Thursday for President Donald Trump to curb his effort to limit the number of refugees he is allowing into the country.
The church officials are part of World Relief, a global Christian humanitarian organization. They voiced concern about the sharp cutback in the number of refugees to the United States. They say the number declined from nearly 97,000 in 2016 to about 33,000 last year.
Trump has limited the number of refugees the U.S. has accepted as part of his effort to thwart potential terrorists from moving to the nation.
Faith leaders 'troubled'
In a letter to Trump and members of Congress, the faith leaders said, “We are troubled by the dramatic reduction in arrivals of refugees to the United States,” saying the number this year could fall to the lowest since the refugee resettlement program was started in 1980.
They said the reduction was occurring “at a time when there are more refugees in the world than ever before in recorded history. Our prayer is that the U.S. would continue to be a beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution.”
The church leaders, who have generally been supportive of Trump's presidency, acknowledged that “we live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and setting the terms on refugee admissions. However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades. While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all.”
They said Trump’s order to limit the number of refugees entering the U.S. is “robbing families of hope and a future.”
Call for protection of young refugees
The faith leaders also called for protection against the deportation of young immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. years ago by their parents.
Trump also has called for allowing 1.8 million of these immigrants to be allowed to stay in the U.S. after he ended a program started by former President Barack Obama to protect them from being returned to their native countries.
In exchange, Trump wants Congress to fund construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to thwart further illegal migration and an end to other programs that have allowed hundreds of thousands of other foreign nationals to move legally to the U.S.
Congress is expected to soon debate immigration policy changes, but it is unclear what might be adopted or what legislation Trump might be willing to accept.