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CWS Marks World Refugee Day and 40 Years of 1980 Refugee Act

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“While we honor refugees on this day, we must also pledge our support for racial justice and anti-racism in word and deed.”

New York City — On the occasion of World Refugee Day, a global holiday celebrating and honoring the resilience and strength of refugees worldwide, Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service issued the following statement:

“This World Refugee Day marks a special moment in our nation’s history of welcoming the stranger. Forty years ago Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that sowed the seeds of compassion. Now, in the midst of an ongoing public health crisis, we are reaping the harvest. Whether serving in hospitals, clinics, or elder care facilities as doctors and nurses, working in factories to make sure the American people have what they need to stay safe, or doing what it takes to make sure our supply chains are running, refugees are making us stronger.

Yet while we mark their contributions to our nation and fight to restore our once-proud legacy of refugee resettlement, we must be mindful that the work of building safe and equitable communities for them to join is far from finished. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and many other Black lives are a stain on our nation. So while we honor refugees on this day, we must also pledge our support for racial justice and anti-racism in word and deed. We are all one, we are in this together, and we have much to do.”

After the Holocaust, the faith community in the United States came together to ensure the country would do more to protect people from persecution. Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980 and formally created the Refugee Resettlement Program. Since then the United States has been a leader in refugee protection, committing to resettling 95,000 refugees every year, on average, until the Trump Administration. The Trump administration has cut this number to 18,000 in FY20 – an all-time low. Due to reduced admissions, refugees approved for resettlement years ago are languishing in camps and urban situations, still waiting for safety and reunification with loved ones.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty.