Rethinking Religion and U.S. Refugee Resettlement

November 24, 2020

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The global refugee crisis was a key issue in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, with both candidates promising to take very different approaches to forced migration. During the past four years, the Trump administration dramatically toughened both rhetoric and policy on refugee resettlement and immigration more broadly. Early into his administration, for example, the president issued a controversial travel and immigration ban on a numer of Muslim-majority countries. The ban set the stage for other limits on immigration, including a “zero tolerance” policy along the U.S.-Mexico border which separated nearly 700 children from their parents. A Biden administration gives hope to many migrants, especially as the president-elect has promised to reopen America to refugees, although he holds claim to a complicated legacy on immigration as vice president in the Obama administration.

Religion plays important roles in refugee resettlement in the United States, especially since six of the nine refugee resettlement agencies in the country are faith-based organizations. Religious ethics and normative faith teachings can also foster on-the-ground action to welcome refugees into American society. As the country prepares for a new administration, the Berkley Forum invites scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to provide priority guidance for the Biden administration on engaging religious communities and faith-inspired organizations in U.S. refugee resettlement and immigration reform. 

This week the Berkley Forum asks: Where is priority action needed by the Biden administration from the perspective of faith-inspired actors working with refugees in the United States? What can policymakers in the new administration learn from the mistakes of the Trump and Obama administrations when it comes to refugees and migration? What ethical or religious principles could inspire new approaches to U.S. refugee resettlement and immigration?

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