"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
These iconic words on the Statue of Liberty ring a little hollow in view of the decrease in numbers of refugees the United States will accept in 2018. The limit is set at 45,000 which is less than half of the number of people accepted last year and lower than many other countries, including those much smaller than the US. This was one of many facts five of us from the Central Gulf Coast: Deacon Terry Goff, Rachel Harding, Peter Horn, Bill Miller and I, recently learned. We were privileged to attend, "Love God, Love Neighbor," a three day seminar on the refugee crisis, presented by Episcopal Migration Ministries. Indeed, the crisis is enormous since only about half of one percent of the 21 million refugees in the world are actually able to resettle. In view of this huge gap between those that need it and those that achieve it, we might have been discouraged at the enormity of the problem. However, the five of us came away from the sessions with new insights and information that encouraged us to look at not how much we can’t do, but instead how much we can do. We learned myths that have led to fear of refugees, how thoroughly they are screened and vetted and the complexity of the resettlement process. We heard heart wrenching stories from refugees themselves and ate delicious food prepared by resettled persons. Political Advocacy was practiced by writing opinion editorials, letters to the editor and in mock face to face meetings with congressional leaders.
This is the first of several articles about refugees that will appear in the Coastline newsletter in the coming weeks. In subsequent articles, we will share more details from the conference such as:
Definition of refugee/ immigrant, and history of immigration in the US
Vetting and resettlement process and what is currently happening
Contributions refugees have made to this country, their importance, their stories
What we can do to make a difference
If you would like to learn more about the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries, please go to episcopalmigrationministries.org.