Skip to main content

Immigration Issues

Refugees and Asylees


Response to Historic Low Refugee Admissions Ceiling

Each year the President of the United States determines the refugee admissions ceiling. We continue to face one the worst worldwide refugee crisis, thus it is critical that Presbyterians urge for admission of at least the yearly average of 95,000 refugees. Refugee resettlement is an integral part of the ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and many of our partners.

Zaatari Refugee Camp

Girls line up before starting school in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan.
Opened in July 2012, the camp holds upwards of 20,000 refugees from the civil war inside Syria,
but its numbers are growing.  -Paul Jeffrey / ACT Alliance


Here are resources that can assist you learn about the refugee crisis worldwide and how you can act on behalf of refugees.

  • The Office of Immigration Issues includes advocacy asks to support robust refugee resettlement each year in the Immigration Asks document on the Advocacy page.
  • Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) provides resources about refugee resettlement advocacy and about the refugee crisis.
  • Many Presbyterian Churches work with Church World Service local affiliates. Church World Service has a robust advocacy platform designed to support refugee voices worldwide.
  • Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services has been welcoming refugees for over 80 years. Their Stand Up, Speak Up materials provide advocacy materials for you to engage locally and nationally.

Encourage and support one another

Don’t hide your good work under a bushel. Your community is populated with refugees who need to know that, despite national rhetoric, they are still welcome. Your community is full of voters who need to be educated about refugee resettlement and to see that their neighbors support it. The congregations in your faith community need to know that they are not alone in their support of refugee resettlement. Finally, those who make law and execute policy, locally and nationally, need to know that their constituents are convicted by their faith to support refugees. How do you make yourselves known? Take photos of your advocacy and outreach efforts and post them on social media, using the hashtag #WeChooseWelcome We will re-post them on our social media, we take your stories with us as we meet with other Presbyterians and we will tell your stories to our nation’s leaders when we advocate.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’” Matthew 2:12-14.

The Scripture verse above recalls the time when Herod ordered all the children under two-years-old to be killed because he feared the loss of his throne. Joseph and Mary were sent to seek refuge in Egypt. Today women, men, and children continue to flee oppression and danger in their home countries.

A refugee or asylee is a person who is outside his or her home country and is unable to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Jesus, the Son of God, started his life as a refugee.

Refugees flee their home country due to persecution, civil war, or genocide, and seek refuge in a second country. They often live in temporary camps set up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where they apply to receive official designation as a refugee. Most refugees never leave those “temporary” camps, unable to return home or resettle in a third country. The UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 13 million refugees awaiting a homecoming or resettlement right now. Less than one percent of those refugees will resettle in a third country that they can finally call home.

Asylees, while meeting the same legal definition as refugees, are different because they do not apply for resettlement into a third country while waiting in a second country. Asylees make it to the country wherein they wish to seek protection and apply from within that country. For instance, many of the families who arrived in the United States from Central America over the summer of 2014 will qualify for asylum status. The only factor in their situation that is different from that of a refugee who is resettled from Somalia or Syria is that they applied for protection from within the borders of the United States and not from a second country while waiting to be approved to come to the U.S.

Both options, applying to be a refugee while outside of the United States and applying for asylum status within the United States, are equally lawful avenues for seeking protection in the U.S. The U.S., as a party to the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, cannot penalize a person for illegal entry if they are seeking refugee status, expel a refugee or return a refugee to the country wherein their life is threatened. It is up to persons of faith and persons of conscience to demand that our country faithfully abides by this international agreement.

To learn more about refugees and how you can get involved see the following links:

  • Learn more about the refugee ministry of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
  • Though seeking asylum from within the borders of the United States is a lawful way of seeking protection and status in the U.S., our government, in 2014, began the practice of imprisoning asylum-seeking women and children. Visit our family detention web page to learn more about and to bring about the end of this disturbing practice.
  • Use this worship resource in your Bible study and Sunday school class to lift up outreach and advocacy for refugees and asylees.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees WebsiteFor every refugee, there is a story of great sacrifice, patience, and hope.
  • The President of the United States determines how many refugees can be admitted during the next fiscal year each September. This nation has resettled as many as 207,000 refugees in years of crisis. Our recent numbers, regardless of suffering around the world, have hovered below 100,000. We can and should advocate each September for a more robust welcome for our brothers and sisters facing persecution in their home countries.
  • Church World Service (CWS) is one national agency that assists in the resettlement process. The PC(USA) has had an ongoing relationship with CWS since the late 1940s. CWS has affiliate agencies across the U.S. doing the grassroots work of resettling refugees into their new homes in America. Learn more about CWS and how you assist with refugee resettlement in or near your hometown.