Evangelical Leaders Affirm Legal Immigration and Protections for the Vulnerable Amid COVID-19 Concerns

 In Press Releases

April 28, 2020

Evangelical Leaders Affirm Legal Immigration and Protections for the Vulnerable Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Letter to President Trump urges reversal of new policies restricting legal immigration and compliance with laws designed to protect the vulnerable

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Evangelical Immigration Table sent a  letter to President Trump, expressing concern over a proclamation signed late last week that temporarily restricts legal immigration from outside of the U.S.

The letter also urges the president to ensure that several programs and laws designed to offer protection to those who have fled persecution are respected as the country gradually re-opens from the COVID-19 crisis.

“In some cases, temporarily restricting travel into the United States in the interest of limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus was appropriate and prescient, and halting certain immigration processes both in the U.S. and overseas, has been necessary to protect both immigrants and the staff of these facilities,” the leaders note. “However, as you lead the nation to gradually re-open, we are concerned by these additional restrictions on immigration and by the continued suspension of other legal immigration processes in the absence of a clear plan for re-opening guided by public health considerations.”

In the letter, these leaders echo President Trump’s own affirmation of the value of legal immigration. They particularly re-affirm their belief in the value of family-based immigration, which will be significantly affected by the proclamation signed last week.

The letter also raises concerns with ongoing suspensions of the U.S. refugee resettlement program, of asylum processing and of abiding by existing U.S. laws designed to protect unaccompanied children from trafficking and violence.

The letter continues: “Reducing legal immigration and setting aside laws designed to protect vulnerable people at this time will neither slow the spread of COVID-19 nor speed the economic recovery. Instead, we are concerned that these restrictions will hinder economic growth, contribute to family separation, increase illegal immigration and put vulnerable children and families who have fled persecution at risk of further harm.”

Other evangelical Christians are invited to add their names to this letter as well.

The following are quotes from several of the Evangelical Immigration Table leaders who signed the letter:

Scott Arbeiter, President, World Relief:

“Temporary travel restrictions are appropriate if driven by public health best practices. But as the country slowly emerges from the COVID-19 shutdown, we must not use the pandemic as a pretext to restrict legal immigration that is essential for rebuilding our economy, for reuniting families and for continuing our country’s legacy as a refuge for the persecuted.”

Hyepin Im, President & CEO, Faith and Community Empowerment:

“Many Asian American immigrants have come to the U.S. through the family reunification process codified in U.S. law. These processes involve U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents paying significant fees to petition for their close relatives abroad, then waiting years or, in some cases, decades for them to be allowed to immigrate lawfully to the U.S. This proclamation unfairly penalizes these Americans, including naturalized citizens on the frontlines of fighting COVID-19, by preventing them from being reunited with their family members, even after paying filing fees and waiting patiently. I pray it will be reconsidered.”

Jo Anne Lyon, Global Ambassador, The Wesleyan Church:

“For the last several years, though President Trump has said he does not want to reduce the net level of legal immigration, the administration has pursued various policies that have precisely that effect, from dramatically reducing refugee resettlement to advocating legislation to reduce family reunification visas. Now, as the country is emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, the administration is claiming executive authority to do what Congress has declined to do, dramatically restricting legal immigration options – at least temporarily. The result of this new order, especially if its restrictions are extended, could be sustained family separation on an expanded scale.”

Chris Palusky, President & CEO, Bethany Christian Services:

“At Bethany, we value the health and safety of all people because our faith teaches us that we are all made in God’s image and loved by him. We’re particularly concerned with the wellbeing of children at the southern border who have fled violence, trafficking, and dangerous criminals – deporting them to their home countries does not promote the eradication of COVID-19. U.S. border officials should carry out health screenings, testing, quarantines, and other measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of both the American people and the children seeking safety. Organizations that care for unaccompanied children, like Bethany, are prepared to meet the mental and physical health needs of these vulnerable kids and keep them safe.”


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