A letter to Dr. Condoleezza Rice regarding US refugee program

September 25, 2002

Dr. Condoleezza Rice Assistant to the President for National Security President of the United StatesThe White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20504 Dear Dr. Rice: Thank you for meeting with us recently to discuss U.S. policy related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We appreciate the time you gave to us last Monday and your commitment to humanitarian responses to complex global issues. During that meeting, we did not have the opportunity to raise another issues of grave concern to us – the current crisis in the U.S. refugee program. As leaders of three major Christian communions, we would like to urge that the Administration give urgent attention to the crisis now facing the US refugee program. We were gratified last November when the President proposed that the United States admit 70,000 refugees to our shores this year. We are now disheartened by the fact that no more than 30,000 are likely to find safety and freedom in America this year. This represents a reversal of our longstanding national policy of welcoming and rescuing persecuted persons. We believe that in spite of the events of last September and the new security concerns that have resulted from that tragedy, we should not become a less hospitable nation, particularly for the millions worldwide who are in their own way victims of terror. All of our churches attempt to be faithful to the Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger. We believe that our Lord calls us to be generous to the most vulnerable among us. It is in adhering to this mandate that our churches have for decades offered hope and recovery to thousands of refugees. We have in recent years enjoyed a partnership with the US Government in giving the United States one of the most caring and effective resettlement programs in the world and have offered other nations a model of hospitality. It is our understanding that the President is considering a refugee admissions ceiling for Fiscal Year 2003 which does not adequately respond to the magnitude of the worldwide refugee crisis. We ask that you urge the President to renew our commitment to the world's refugees and to press for a generous refugee admissions program. We would also appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to review the current refugee crisis and to explain more fully our plans for reinvigorating the program. As leaders of three church communities, we and those whom we represent can attest to the blessings which resettling refugees has brought to our nation. We also know of the contributions which these newcomers make to enriching our lives and our nation. Therefore, we hope that this Administration will honor our desire to be faithful to Christ's call to welcome the stranger and work with us in placing our nation once again at the forefront of this ministry of rescue. Faithfully, Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops The Reverend Mark S. Hanson Presiding BishopEvangelical Lutheran Church in America The Most Reverend Frank T. GriswoldXXV Presiding Bishop and PrimateThe Episcopal Church, USA