• Press Release

18 Leaders Arrested Today at the Capitol While Protesting Trump Administration’s Destruction of the Refugee Resettlement Program

October 15, 2019

In response to the Trump Administration’s continued assault on the U.S. refugee resettlement program, 18 leaders from the nation’s leading faith and human rights organizations, as well as a former State Department official, were arrested on Capitol Hill as part of the first ever act of civil disobedience in the name of refugee resettlement. Those 18 arrested represented the 18,000 refugee cap set by the Trump administration – the lowest in the history of the resettlement program.

Those arrested were joined by supporters holding 95 photographs of refugees, a nod to the historic average refugee cap of 95,000 per year. The arrests came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today meets with Members of Congress to consult over the historically low cap.

Prior to being taken into custody by Capitol Police, a number of the arrested issued the following statements:

“Today we are standing up to hostility and fear and standing with refugees to call for dignity, equality, and fairness. It’s well past the time for the President to stop abusing his power to demonize people seeking safety and for this country to welcome refugees once again. Today we are sending a strong message to the administration that the country we want to live in is one where we take care of people who need safety and we are not afraid to be silenced.” Margaret Huang, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA

“The program once had strong bipartisan support, since policymakers on both sides of the aisle understood that by resettling refugees, the United States serves as a moral leader and annually renews a promise on which our country was founded.  Resettlement also supports U.S. foreign policy interests, including the fragile regional stability in the Middle East. Supporting the countries that host refugees through investment, humanitarian aid, and resettlement is essential as globally more than 70 million people are displaced, including nearly 26 million refugees. By taking in some refugees, the U.S. can encourage other countries to keep their doors open and allow refugees to work and refugee children to attend school. That’s key to mitigating conflict, restoring dignity to those who’ve fled and ensuring a future for millions of young people.” Anne C. Richard, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)

“Risking handcuffs pales in comparison to what refugees risk every day to live simple lives in peace and freedom. As a representative of the faith community, I could not in good conscience sit idly by as Secretary Pompeo came to Capitol Hill to get a rubber stamp on his woefully inadequate and cruel proposal. Men and women across the nation have shown themselves willing to open their hearts and their communities to the world’s most vulnerable. The secretary should heed their calls for compassion, not Trump’s basest fears.” Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service

“Today’s action is a reminder to everyone that it is not okay for the U.S. to stop being a land of immigrants that welcomes refugees. As a Palestinian American who was born and raised in a refugee camp, I can say with absolute certainty that drastically cutting the U.S. refugee resettlement program by 80 percent will directly impact those seeking shelter inside our nation, diminishing their safety and our nation’s standing. At this time, Congress should be considering how to raise the refugee cap and not accepting the Trump administration’s systematic destruction of how immigrants, especially those of color, become U.S. citizens.”  Nihad Awad, National Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations

“Opening our hearts and our arms to refugees from around the world is foundational to the American experiment. Ours is a nation defined not by blood and soil but by shared ideas and ideals. I am proud to stand up for one of America’s finest traditions, and I am heartbroken that this administration recklessly trashes it. It is actions like today that renew my faith that we the people will overcome the aberrant administration in power to restore our commitment to welcoming those who come to infuse the nation’s bloodstream with a profound love of freedom.” Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director, America’s Voice

“Now is the time to welcome refugees. Given the many ongoing and emerging displacement crises around the world, we will not stand by idly as the United States turns its back on these individuals. Our commitment to offer refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution, rooted in our faith and more than 100 years of Maryknoll mission, requires our government to demonstrate the moral leadership upon which our nation was founded. To arbitrarily restrict tens of thousands of people from seeking safety would be to forsake our nation’s values of compassion, hospitality, and welcome.” Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

“Trump’s nonstop action to dismantle the refugee program is motivated by racism, contempt, and an utter disregard for American values. I have met and worked alongside refugees in more than twenty countries and in every region of the world. The U.S.’ commitment to refugee resettlement both supported countries that hosted millions of refugees, and those refugees who remained most vulnerable. Trump’s ignorant and callous destruction of the resettlement program is shameful.” Sarnata Reynolds, Director of Policy, The Immigration Hub

Others arrested today included Sarnata Reynolds, former counsel for the House Judiciary Committee; Susannah Cunningham, Executive Director, Only Through US; Rev. Michael Puckett, Beargrass Christian Church & Board Chair, Kentucky Refugee Ministries; Rev. Seth Kapper-Dale, Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ; and Sr. Maria Orlandini, Advocacy Director, Franciscan Action Network.

Since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States has set an average admissions goal of 95,000 refugees annually. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, refugee admissions have been severely cut, causing irreparable damage to refugee families, American communities and the infrastructure in place to welcome and support new arrivals. Across the country, hundreds of elected officials, congregations and business leaders have been showing their support for refugee resettlement. Church World Service calls on Congress to support the GRACE Act (S.1088 and H.R.2146), which would set a minimum refugee admissions goal at 95,000 and restore the resettlement program to historic norms.

Today’s protest was cosponsored by: Church World Service, Sahloul, Franciscan Action Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Center for Victims of Torture, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Amnesty International USA, Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, Congregations Action Network, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, Sojourners, NOVA Friends of Refugees/One Journey.