By / Feb 20

Recently, President Biden announced a new pilot program to allow for individuals to privately sponsor refugees coming to the United States. Through the program, Welcome Corps, groups of at least five individuals can work together to raise funds to sponsor a refugee. Once the refugee arrives, these individuals, rather than a traditional resettlement agency, will assist them in securing housing, employment, and education for their children for at least 90 days as they integrate into American life.

This new initiative comes at a time where both international displacement is at record highs and the United States has struggled to meet its goals in resettling refugees through the traditional U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) process. 

This program presents new opportunities for individuals and churches to be involved in helping the persecuted and welcoming the vulnerable into our communities.

Why does it matter?

As Americans, it can be easy for us to feel distant from refugees around the world and to wonder why these backlogs and challenges matter. But the issues in the resettlement system are affecting the real lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and a system that was designed to assist them in finding refuge is often leaving them stranded and unable to receive help in a timely and effective manner.

  • The Bible: This matters, first of all, because these people matter greatly to God, and we are called to love, serve, and work for their good. The Bible is unequivocally clear in its command for Christians to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see God’s call to care for the immigrant and the refugee as vulnerable people made in the image of God (Matt. 25:35-40; James 1:27). 
  • The SBC: The Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed this command to care for the “stranger” among us through numerous resolutions declaring “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status” and encouraging “people to increase their involvement in resettlement of legal refugees through the enlistment of sponsors and the provision of church-centered ministries.”
  • The historic precedent: Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. Recent polling indicated that 36% of evangelicals have been directly involved in serving refugees and immigrants, and 70% say that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to accept refugees.
  • The new opportunities: This new program will allow us to better serve more of our persecuted brothers and sisters and play a larger role in welcoming them into our communities. It presents new opportunities for Christians to continue leading the way in caring for the most vulnerable among us. For example, it will allow Christians and churches who are in more rural parts of the country or communities where there are not active resettlement agencies to begin taking part in this important work.

How can Christians get involved?

In the first year of this program, the Biden administration is hoping to mobilize at least 10,000 Americans to sponsor at least 5,000 refugees. If you are interested in getting involved, here are a few suggestions:

  • Pray that God would raise up sponsors in the United States to welcome refugees, and that through this service, many refugees would come to know Christ.
  • Consider becoming a sponsor. If you’d like to know more about what this entails, or if a group of church members is ready to take the first steps toward sponsorship, visit welcomecorps.org.
  • Talk to your local resettlement agency. If you live in a community where a resettlement agency is already active, reach out to them and see if there are ways you can partner with them to serve refugees that are already being resettled in your community. 

How does this program work?

Definition of a refugee: Typically, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is “an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Those who meet this definition may seek refugee status if they are outside of the U.S. or asylum status if they are physically in the country. 

Here is a rundown of how the process works: 

  • The first step for an individual who meets this definition is to register with the UNHCR. The UNHCR then must determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee and what the best solution for them is. Generally, less than 1% of those who qualify as refugees are ultimately resettled to a third country each year. 
  • Once an individual is referred by UNHCR for resettlement in the U.S., a network of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations work together to conduct intensive security, biometric, and eligibility screenings. 
  • Following these screenings, refugees then must be approved for travel, go through medical exams, and be sponsored by a domestic resettlement agency. 
  • Refugees then face final vetting from Customs and Border Patrol upon their arrival to the U.S. Through these rigorous processes, refugees are some of the most thoroughly vetted individuals who come to America. 
  • Once a refugee is in the U.S., a resettlement agency, in partnership with the U.S. government, works to integrate them into the community and help them successfully start a new life. This process currently takes an average of over five years. This new program will have refugees follow the same process until they reach the U.S. where they will be resettled by individuals rather than a resettlement agency. It will serve as a complement—not a replacement —to the work of resettlement agencies.

Welcome Corps is similar to programs over the last year that utilized private individuals in welcoming and resettling Afghan and Ukrainian evacuees who, because of severe backlogs in the resettlement system, were brought to the U.S. under humanitarian parole, meaning that they did not receive traditional resettlement benefits granted to refugees. 

A number of factors have caused these slowdowns and backlogs throughout the process severely lengthening the amount of time it takes for a refugee to be resettled and limiting the number of individuals able to actually be resettled each year, regardless of the cap that is set by the president. Despite Biden’s goal of resettling 125,000 refugees in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. only resettled just over 25,000 refugees.

As the State Department said in announcing the program:

“The American people have extended an extraordinarily welcoming hand to our Afghan allies, Ukrainians displaced by war, and Venezuelans and others fleeing violence and oppression. The Welcome Corps will build on Americans’ generosity of spirit by creating a durable program for Americans in communities across the country to privately sponsor refugees from around the world. . . By tapping into the goodwill of American communities, the Welcome Corps will expand our country’s capacity to provide a warm welcome to higher numbers of refugees.” 

By / Dec 13

I recently had the opportunity to visit the U.S.–Mexico border at El Paso and Ciudad Juárez with a group of SBC leaders to learn and gain a better understanding of what is happening on the ground at the border. We spent time with migrants at shelters in both Mexico and the United States, a retired border enforcement officer, and with those involved in meeting the needs of these migrants when they arrive.

This was not my first trip to the border, and it is always an emotional experience for me as I see the great need, pain, and desperation of many migrants and those on the front lines of both enforcing our laws and addressing a humanitarian crisis. This trip, though, offered me a new lens with which to view this experience: Advent.

A time of waiting and yearning 

Advent is a time of waiting. It is a time in which we both remember the great anticipation with which the people of Israel awaited the Messiah’s arrival and simultaneously look ahead to Christ’s second coming. It is a time where we often see the brokenness of our world more acutely and yearn with greater urgency for Jesus’ return when all will be made right. It is a time of both immense grief at what is and great hope of what is to come.

As I spent time with many young mothers and their children at a shelter in Mexico, it was as if I was watching this Advent reality play out physically in front of me. Many told of the great tragedy from which they fled. They spoke of poverty, threats to their children from gangs, and incredible trauma that forced them to flee their homes. Much was left unsaid about what they had experienced on their journey to Ciudad Juárez, though data tells us that it is likely that many of these women faced rape or sexual assault on their journeys, extortion from cartels, and some may have even lost loved ones on the way.

As I looked at their weary eyes and bodies that had carried so much tragedy, I thought of Mary and Joseph. I wonder if they similarly looked scared and tired to Egyptians when they fled, as what we would consider modern-day asylum seekers, with a very young Jesus. Were they met with help along the way? How did they sacrifice to protect their son? I wonder if Mary, much like these women, pleaded for strength from God to keep going amidst her fears and exhaustion.

These women and children find themselves in a time of waiting. As the United States’ border policies continue to change, many find themselves waiting for an opportunity to request asylum. Depending on their country of origin and circumstances, that day may come quickly for some, and for others, they may not have that opportunity for weeks, months, or years. They sit in a shelter, graciously run by a church, waiting for policies to change, waiting for safety, waiting for a new life. They wonder what opportunities they might have in the U.S. They look at their children and ask what opportunities will be granted to them—a decision largely made by lawmakers thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. 

Resting in the first Advent 

Yet in the midst of their uncertainty, grief, and fear, there is incredible hope among these people. They trust God to provide a way for them and have sincere hope that someday they will make it to the U.S. and that their sacrifices will have been worth it for their children to grow up safe, free, and with opportunity. 

This type of experience can make me feel overwhelmed by all of the ways that our world is not as it should be. In a perfect, sinless world, people wouldn’t have to leave their homes. Women would not have to take birth control before migrating out of fear of rape on their journey. Children would not have to grow up with unspeakable trauma in their most formative years. Young people would not have to grow up in shelters and refugee camps instead of stable homes and schools. People would be able to flourish in their own neighborhoods.

But that is not our reality. Our world is fallen and broken, and people, made in the image of God, suffer as a result. This reality of our world makes me long for the reality of the new world. A world that is perfect—where there is no suffering, no tears, no tragedy. Advent reminds us that in a day coming soon, all will be made right.

Until then, though, we can rest on the first Advent—that Christ himself came as Emmanuel, God with us, to walk through the tragedy and hurts of our world with us. I wonder if this is why so many of our treasured Christmas hymns point to the truth that Christ has come to free his people from oppression and bondage spiritually and someday will do that physically as well.

For now we say, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our sins and fears release us, let us find our rest in thee.” Be the “joy of every longing heart” even as we wait. Someday the weary world will rejoice and these women and their children will victoriously proclaim with us, “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name, all oppression shall cease.”

Emmanuel sees and knows those women in that shelter. Someday those women in ragged clothes and with worn-out faces who have trusted in Christ will be glorified as co-heirs with him, and they will find the ultimate rest, peace, and safety that they have longed for. Each of us this Christmas, regardless of whatever we may be walking through, can cling to Emmanuel’s presence as we are overwhelmed by the burdens, tragedy, and grief of this life. He knows you and cares for you, and he has paid the greatest price to redeem this broken world.

By / Oct 24

Recently, President Biden announced that he would set the United States’ annual refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2023 at 125,000. Traditionally, actual resettlement numbers have tracked closely with that number set by the president each year. However, in recent years, the U.S. has fallen far short of that ceiling. This declining resettlement comes at a time of historic displacement around the world. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 89.3 million people, or 1 in every 88 people on earth, have been forcibly displaced with 27.1 million of those meeting the formal definition of a refugee, roughly half of whom are minors. 

In this time of immense need, it is vital that the U.S. go beyond symbolically setting a significant resettlement cap and actually invest in rebuilding a robust system that can meet those goals and help the most vulnerable around the world. In order to improve our resettlement system, it is essential to understand its history, current processes, and the challenges it faces.

The history of U.S. refugee resettlement

The U.S. has a long history of welcoming persecuted peoples and refugees, even going back to the nation’s founding. For much of our history, refugees came to America with little formal process. It largely wasn’t until the 1900s that federal laws and agencies began strictly governing immigration and refugee resettlement. Much of our current system was born out of World War II as Europe was overwhelmed with millions of people displaced by the war and the U.S. began reckoning with its own failures to offer refuge to many Jews and other persecuted groups prior to and during the war.

In 1980, during an influx of refugees following the Vietnam War, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980. This law created our modern-day refugee system by adopting a standardized definition of a “refugee,” creating the Office of Refugee Resettlement to oversee resettlement processes, providing the first statutory basis for asylum, and formalizing the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Every year since then, the president has set, through a “Presidential Determination,” a cap for the maximum number of refugees that the U.S. will resettle in that given fiscal year. The highest Presidential Determination ever set was in 1980 at 231,700 and the lowest in 2020 at 18,000, with a historic average of about 95,000 since the program began. Since 1980, the United States has resettled more than 3.1 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.

How are refugees resettled in the U.S.?

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a refugee is “an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Those who meet this definition may seek refugee status if they are outside of the U.S. or asylum status if they are physically in the country. The first step for an individual who meets this definition is to register with the UNHCR. The UNHCR then must determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee and what the best solution for them is. Generally, less than 1% of those who qualify as refugees are ultimately resettled to a third country each year. 

Once an individual is referred by UNHCR for resettlement in the U.S., a network of federal agencies and non-governmental organizations work together to conduct intensive security, biometric, and eligibility screenings. Following these screenings, refugees then must be approved for travel, go through medical exams, and be sponsored by a domestic resettlement agency. Refugees then face final vetting from Customs and Border Patrol upon their arrival to the U.S. Through these rigorous processes, refugees are some of the most thoroughly vetted individuals who come to America. 

Once a refugee is in the U.S., a resettlement agency, in partnership with the U.S. government, works to integrate them into the community and help them successfully start a new life. In previous years, this process would typically take on average 18 to 24 months.

Significant challenges

Though there are few concrete estimates, this already lengthy process now, for a number of reasons, is currently averaging over 5 years. A number of factors have caused incredible slowdowns and backlogs throughout the process that have severely lengthened the amount of time it takes for a refugee to be resettled and limited the number of individuals able to actually be resettled each year, regardless of the cap that is set by the president. Despite the 125,000 cap set by Biden in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. only resettled just over 25,000 refugees.

Because domestic refugee resettlement agencies are funded by the government based on the number of refugees that they resettle, the Trump administration’s decision to significantly curtail resettlement forced an estimated 134 resettlement sites to close and capacity to be cut by about 38%. It has proven to be difficult for resettlement agencies to rebuild their capacity in re-opening locations, rehiring staff, and rebuilding volunteer networks, given the unreliable nature of their funding. Additionally, overseas processing and interviews have been slow to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era cuts. Other factors such as understaffing across federal agencies have contributed to a largely unworkable system for many individuals in dire circumstances.

While there are a number of real, logistical challenges facing the resettlement system, at its core, the issue is largely one of political will. If both the Biden administration and Congress wanted to truly fix our resettlement system, they could choose to funnel increased resources to the appropriate federal agencies and create new funding streams for resettlement organizations. Rebuilding the refugee resettlement program is certainly a massive feat, but it is one that can be done if our leaders choose to prioritize it. 

Why does it matter?

In the absence of a nimble and efficient refugee system, our government has turned to a tool known as “humanitarian parole” as a substitute. Humanitarian parole may be used to deliver people quickly to the U.S. in the case of a humanitarian crisis. Over the last year, the U.S. government used this tool to assist Afghans following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and Ukrainians following the invasion of Russia. While this did allow people to be moved out of harm’s way quickly, it came at a cost. Parole is a temporary solution to what is often a long-term crisis. It provides only temporary protection for individuals in the U.S. and does not offer them the resettlement support given to formal refugees. Congress had to act to provide resettlement benefits to Afghans who were evacuated here, and still must act in the future to allow Afghans to stay lawfully in the U.S. moving forward.

Another consequence of our current resettlement system is that a growing number of people find that their only option is to present themselves at the U.S. southern border. If an individual believes that they meet the definition of a refugee but is languishing in backlogs and processing overseas, they may choose to travel to the southern border and seek asylum either at a port of entry or by presenting themselves to a border patrol officer along the border. Over the past year, we’ve seen not just individuals from the “Northern Triangle”⸺ El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras⸺arriving at the border, but people from all over the world who ideally should be processed as refugees closer to home. For example, as the Communist regime in Venezuela has crumbled into a humanitarian crisis over the last year, some 187,000 Venezuelans have made the treacherous journey through the Darién gap and presented themselves for asylum at the southern border. A functioning resettlement system both better serves those who are vulnerable and need to flee while also relieving our overwhelmed resources at the southern border. 

As Americans, it can be easy for us to feel distant from refugees around the world and to wonder why these backlogs and challenges matter. First of all, this matters because these people matter greatly to God, and we are called to love, serve, and work for their good. These issues in the resettlement system are affecting the real lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and a system that was designed to assist them in finding refuge is often leaving them stranded and unable to receive help in a timely and effective manner.

The Bible is unequivocally clear in its command for Christians to care for the persecuted and vulnerable. Throughout the narrative of Scripture, we see over and over God’s call to care for the immigrant and the refugee as vulnerable people made in the image of God (Matt. 25:35-40, James 1:27). The Southern Baptist Convention has reaffirmed this command to care for the “stranger” among us through numerous resolutions declaring “the value and dignity of immigrants, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, or legal status” and encouraging “people to increase their involvement in resettlement of legal refugees through the enlistment of sponsors and the provision of church-centered ministries.”

Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. On a local level, last year saw a renewed effort from Christians and churches to assist in resettling the Afghans who were evacuated and paroled into the U.S. We saw churches open their doors, families make meals, and Christians rise up to welcome our new Afghan neighbors. World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization, saw their number of active volunteers double in 2021. Recent polling indicated that 36% of evangelicals have been directly involved in serving refugees and immigrants, and 70% say that the U.S. has a moral responsibility to accept refugees.

Christians care about refugees and are often on the frontlines in serving and welcoming them to our communities. Alongside that important work, we must also continue to advocate and encourage our lawmakers and political leaders to similarly value these vulnerable people and invest the necessary resources to truly allow our nation to once again be a place of refuge for the persecuted.

By / Aug 15

August 15th will mark one year since the fall of Kabul and the official collapse of the Afghan government. The anniversary is a somber reminder of the chaos that entailed following the U.S. withdrawal from the country. We remember the horrific images that came out of Afghanistan as mothers hoisted their children over the airport fences and as people desperately clung to the landing gear of departing airplanes. When it could not seem to get any worse, it did. A suicide bomber detonated near a gate at the Kabul airport killing 13 U.S. service members along with at least 60 civillians. Sorrow ensued as millions across the world watched helplessly. 

Over the last year, much has happened causing the world to shift its attention away from Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine being one of the most notable. While the unjust war in Ukraine deserves our attention and full support, it should not come at the expense of forgetting the thousands of Afghans displaced from their homes and those left behind. They are not afforded the luxury of moving on to the next story, even if the world seems to. 

The evacuation of Afghans

The evacuation of Afghanistan was far from normal operating procedures. Under normal circumstances, someone who is fleeing their country will go through a lengthy process while abroad in order to gain the status of “refugee.” The Department of Homeland Security will approve cases after significant screening. However, a number of factors have made an already extensive process, that typically takes two to five years, nearly unworkable for those who need it. Since, as the State Department put it, “It is undeniable that we were surprised at the pace by which the Taliban were able to pursue their territorial advances,” their response was forced to rapidly evolve. 

Because there was not time for the normal refugee resettlement process to take place, the priority had to be shifted to protecting life on the ground and getting Americans and Afghan allies out as quickly as possible. In the midst of the chaos, many people who had faithfully served the U.S. military or who would otherwise qualify as a refugee were tragically left behind. In order to maintain the highest level of security screening, even in such an unusual process, the first stop on those flights out of Kabul was not the U.S. Everyone was taken to a U.S. military base in Europe or the Middle East for intensive security screenings. Biometrics were taken and cross referenced to criminal and terrorist related databases. If anything was flagged in the databases or in questioning, the individual would not be allowed into the U.S. Those who cleared security were then allowed to eventually travel to the US, where they were subject to additional security and health screenings. 

The arrival of Afghans

Given the unprecedented evacuation of 120,000 people from Kabul in a matter of days, there was not sufficient time for bureaucratic paperwork to be completed and for the formal status of “refugee” to be acquired. As a result, those who fled Afghanistan were brought to the United States using “humanitarian parole,” a tool the U.S. government may use to deliver people quickly to the U.S. in the case of a humanitarian crisis, instead of through the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). 

Though it may seem like a minor distinction, it can and has had an extensive impact on the lives of Afghans brought to the US. Typically, parole does not allow for financial assistance such as food stamps or cultural orientation resources such as language classes that would typically be provided to a refugee through a resettlement agency. Thankfully, H.R. 5305 was signed into law to address some of these shortcomings by allowing Afghan parolees to access basic services provided by resettlement agencies as they arrived into the country and began to try and make a home. 

In addition, churches and people of faith stepped to the front lines to meet the needs of vulnerable Afghans who arrived to the U.S. Historically, people of faith have led the way in resettling refugees. On a national level, six of the nine agencies that work with the U.S. government to resettle refugees have religious roots that motivate their work. This instance was no different. Churches opened their doors, families made meals, and Christians rose up to welcome our new Afghan neighbors. In response to the crisis, World Relief, a Christian refugee resettlement organization, saw their number of active volunteers double.

Significant challenges still remain

Despite the work of volunteers and organizations to meet the needs of Afghans and Congress’ move to provide resettlement benefits, other challenges still remain. One of the severe limitations of parole status is that it is intended to only be temporary. Though it can potentially be renewed to avoid deportation, it does not provide any pathway to permanent status and will never allow Afghans to fully settle. Sadly, just as with Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status recipients, they will similarly live in legal limbo and have a fear of future deportation as a permanent fixture in their lives. With the Taliban continuing to search for those who aided the U.S. during the 20-year campaign, deporting our allies and other vulnerable Afghans back to their country is not an option. For the foreseeable future, those who are returned will likely be jailed and potentially killed. Unfortunately, parole ultimately serves as a short-term solution to a devastating, long-term crisis.

The ERLC has joined other evangelical organizations in repeatedly urging “the passing of legislation that would allow Afghans to adjust status to a lawful permanent resident once in the United States. Without a change to law, individuals with humanitarian parole status will face an uncertain future, lacking a clear, direct path to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship.” Though many of these individuals could ultimately qualify for asylum, our asylum system is so significantly backlogged already that adding tens of thousands of new cases would leave Afghans in legal limbo for years. Without an act of Congress, many Afghans are left without a real solution.

Additionally, hundreds of Afghan allies who assisted the U.S. remain stuck in Afghanistan or in third countries unable to legally enter the States. Following the immediate evacuation, the U.S. government has been very limited in its granting of parole requests and Special Immigrant Visa requests. This has forced many of these individuals to enter the severely-backlogged and time-consuming refugee resettlement program, which may take years for them to be granted status. Many continue to face intense persecution from the Taliban and are in urgent need of assistance to find safety in the U.S. 

The role of the Church

God provides no ambiguity in where he stands on helping the most vulnerable. The greatest commandments in the Bible are to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-38). Vulnerable, displaced people from Afghanistan are attempting to begin new lives in our neighborhoods, churches, and communities. Many are scared, lonely, and in need of help. For most, their family, friends, and livelihoods had to be quickly left behind. They have been forced to start at ground zero. An immense opportunity exists for the Church to continue rallying around this community and helping people in desperate need of care. A mission field has come to us, and the hope of the gospel remains our greatest gift. 

Below are some resources from Southern Baptist missions entities and other faith-based relief organizations to assist you and your church in meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of Afghans in your community. 

  • Submit a World Relief form to open up your home to Afghan parolees. 
  • Get coaching from a Send Relief team member. Learn how to engage and minister to Afghans. 
  • Watch the “Care for Refugees Workshop” put on by Send Relief. 
  • The IMB has resources for sharing the gospel with Afghans in the US. 
  • Donate to support the efforts of Send Relief in assisting refugees and displaced people around the world. 

Though the world has in many ways moved on from those who have suffered in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we must intentionally choose to see these people, made in the image of God, to remember their loss, and to offer our help. We have been given an opportunity to show the love of Christ to those who are in desperate need of hope. As we find ourselves in proximity to these individuals forced to flee, let us commit to loving them as Jesus would through extending the good news of the gospel to the broken, meeting the needs of the vulnerable, and welcoming the stranger with open arms into our homes, churches, and communities. (John 13:34-35; Matt. 25)

By / Jun 10

The Uyghur people and Hong Kong political dissenters face daily persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Human rights advocates and Western governments have rightly criticized the Chinese government for targeting the predominantly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group for illegitimate detention and abusive “pacification” under the guise of national security. In Hong Kong, authorities have arrested dozens of pro-democracy leaders and restricted freedoms of speech and the press. While circumstances are constantly changing, one thing is certain: the United States should swiftly offer refuge to those fleeing persecution.

For decades, Southern Baptists have ministered “care, compassion, and the gospel to refugees who come to the United States” and encouraged our churches and families “to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at his throne (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9–12; Psalms 68:5; James 1:27; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 19: 33–34).” We mourn the plight of refugees and affirm that “Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands.”

The ERLC will continue the admirable Southern Baptist legacy of advocating for the dignity of vulnerable people around the globe. Central to the Church’s mission is the biblical mandate to pursue justice for all people, “speak[ing] up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Prov. 31:8) To truly “walk in the way of Christ,” the Church is called to “defend the rights of the poor and needy” and practice God’s love for the immigrant, refugee, and foreigner (Eph. 5:1-2, Prov. 31:9).

What kind of persecution do Uyghurs and Hong Kongers face?

The U.S. government, under both the Trump and Biden administrations, have officially determined that the CCP is committing genocide in Xinjiang, China, against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minority groups. Since 2017, the CCP has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghurs through totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. China has built more than 1,000 internment camps to detain between 1 and 3 million Uyghurs for “reeducation” purposes. Physical and psychological abuse such as rape, torture, malnourishment, and forced organ harvesting is rampant throughout these camps. Recently, leaked photos and files have further implicated senior Chinese officials who issued shoot-to-kill directives, trained police to exercise violent detainment measures, and ordered draconian prison sentences for thousands of Uyghurs on arbitrary charges of terrorism.

In Hong Kong, China has punished dissent and violently suppressed unrest by wielding the same “security” practices used in mainland China under the National Security Law. This law endangers political dissenters and people of faith in Hong Kong, placing them at risk of life prison sentences or extradition to the mainland.

What is Priority 2 refugee status?

The United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.” Refugees must have “a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” The U.S. refugee program categorizes eligible refugees in one of three priority groups. Priority 2 (P-2) refugee status is granted to “groups of special humanitarian concern,” which are often specific ethnic, religious, or national people groups vulnerable to persecution.

Offering P-2 refugee status provides a lifeline to vulnerable Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong dissenters. This status would grant Uyghurs and Hong Kongers direct access to the U.S. refugee system, expediting their ability to apply for asylum or long-term residency. P-2 refugees are not required to obtain referrals from the UNHCR or an embassy, which helps accelerate the process for Uyghurs and Hong Kongers who must quickly flee a country where they face immediate threats of genocide and persecution.

Priority 2 refugee status is an increasingly important tool in the United States’ arsenal as the refugee resettlement program faces unprecedented backlogs. Without priority status, those Uyghurs and Hong Kongers who are able to escape would be forced to wait years in perilous circumstances to eventually be processed and find safety in the United States.

How is the ERLC involved?

A bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives are currently working to finalize the Bipartisan Innovation Act. The bill is a multibillion dollar economic competitiveness package meant to bolster American technology and innovation and keep pace with China. Versions of this bill passed the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives with significant differences, and now, members of both parties from both chambers—known as conferees—are negotiating to reconcile a final package. Priority 2 refugee status for Uyghurs and Hong Kongers was included in the House-passed version of this legislation but was previously excluded from the Senate-passed version. The ERLC sent a letter to Congressional leadership and conferees advocating for the inclusion of P-2 status for Uyghurs and Hong Kongers to be included in the final bill.

If the United States wants to be serious in its efforts to counter China through this package, legislators must prioritize efforts to counter China morally. Providing refuge to these vulnerable people would send a clear message to Beijing that the United States opposes the CCP’s attempts to oppress religious and ethnic minorities and silence its dissenters by denying them fundamental human rights. By offering P-2 refugee status to Uyghurs and Hong Kongers fleeing persecution, America can demonstrate that this country is a safe haven for the persecuted and a vanguard against nations that abuse human rights and violate religious liberties.

ERLC Intern Daniel Hostetter contributed to this article.

By / Jun 3

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, announced that the total number of people forcibly displaced has surpassed 100 million for the first time on record. This number includes those “forced to flee conflict violence, human rights violations and persecution” and includes refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people. These 100 million people represent 1% of the global population and would make up the 14th most populous nation in the world. 

The number of displaced people has risen dramatically in the last decade from 45.2 million in 2012 to a staggering 100 million today. This massive increase can be attributed to increased conflict in countries such as “Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo” as well as the war in Ukraine. Since the war in Ukraine began, more than 8 million people have been internally displaced, and 6 million have fled as refugees.

According to the European Commission, 87% of refugees are hosted in developing countries and face severe challenges in accessing shelter, food, and other basic necessities. They also face high rates of poverty, violence, abuse, and exploitation. Once displaced, it is often difficult for these people to find places of permanence, with displacements lasting “20 years on average for refugees and more than 10 years for most internally displaced people (IDPs).”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Flippo Grandi, said of this milestone that “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.” He continued stating, “To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”

How can the U.S. respond? 

The response to a humanitarian crisis as massive and complex as this requires a nuanced and multifaceted political response from the United States and global community. 

A key component of our nation’s response is the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). A refugee is defined as someone who “has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” and currently resides outside of the United States. These individuals must register with UNHCR and go through extensive vetting and security checks before being considered for resettlement in the United States. 

Unfortunately, in recent years, the USRAP has been devastated, along with the network of nonprofits and service providers that support resettlement. The U.S. has largely abdicated its role as a refuge to the vulnerable at this time of historic levels of refugees and internationally displaced people worldwide, admitting just 11,411 refugees in the last fiscal year. The ERLC is deeply engaged in advocating for the rebuilding of this safe and legal program to restore our country’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.

Another avenue for displaced people to seek refuge in the United States is through seeking asylum. Asylees are similar in definition to refugees but must be physically present in the United States to apply. Because of the severe backlogs in the USRAP program, some displaced people choose to physically present themself at the United States’ borders. However, because of Title 42, the public health order that requires immediate expulsion of most immigrants arriving to the U.S.-Mexico border, very few individuals are able to cross into the United States and request asylum, despite their legal right to do so. The ERLC is advocating for protections for these asylum seekers and policies that safely, fairly, and compassionately allow them due process and protection from harm.

A third component of our response to this humanitarian crisis must be addressing the root issues that are forcibly displacing these people. The ERLC has long advocated for addressing these “root causes” of migration—poverty, violence, and corruption—in Central America and around the world. Additionally, the ERLC has extensively worked to support religious freedom and human rights for all of our neighbors around the world. 

In the face of this crisis, we as Christians cannot look away. While there can be good-faith disagreements on immigration policy, international aid, and foreign policy, the Bible demands that we see the dignity of these displaced individuals made in God’s image and care for their well-being in the midst of their immense personal tragedies. Indifference is not an option afforded to believers. We must commit to fervent prayer on behalf of those who are displaced and seek out ways to serve and welcome them into our communities.

By / May 29

Seeking justice and righteousness, especially for those who are most vulnerable, is fundamental to our faith and an essential part of Christian living. God directly commanded us to seek justice through the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8 ESV). 

The Biblical Call for Justice

Throughout Scripture, God calls his people to care for the vulnerable and to seek justice on behalf of our neighbors. As God gives the Law to the Israelites, he instructs them to care for the poor (Lev. 19:9-10, 23:22), to welcome immigrants and refugees (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34), and to be fair in their financial dealings (Lev. 19:35-36). The prophets carry on these themes of justice and often indict the people of Israel for their failure in this area. Isaiah directly admonishes the people that caring for and fair treatment of the vulnerable is an essential part of faithful worship.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard” (Isa. 58:6-8 ESV).

In the New Testament, Jesus says of those who are his sheep, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me’” (Matt. 25:35-36 CSB). Later, in James, we are instructed as to what true faith entails: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27 ESV).

Areas of Advocacy 

It is this clear mandate from God that both defines and motivates our advocacy for justice. Though injustice and tragedy run rampant in our fallen world, God’s people are to work for the good of our neighbors to push back the darkness and lift up the vulnerable. In our advocacy for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the unfairly marginalized, we bear witness to a God who is the ultimate just Judge, who deeply cares for the oppressed, and who proclaims a gospel that saves all who believe without partiality.

Immigrants and Refugees

Within our larger advocacy for immigration reforms that uphold ideals of dignity and fairness, the ERLC has strongly advocated for Dreamers, young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents, at no fault of their own. These Dreamers, who often have known no other home than the U.S., face continual uncertainty and potential future deportation unless Congress can deliver a solution allowing them to remain here legally. 

Additionally, in recent years, the U.S. refugee resettlement program has been devastated, along with the network of nonprofits and service providers that support resettlement. The U.S. has largely abdicated its role as a refuge to the vulnerable at a time of historic levels of refugees and internationally displaced people worldwide. The ERLC is deeply engaged in advocating for the rebuilding of this safe and legal program to restore our country’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.

Criminal Justice Reform

In 2018, the ERLC advocated heavily for the passage of the historic First Step Act, which worked to reduce recidivism in prisoners, prevented the shackling of most pregnant prisoners, and made other important steps toward a more compassionate criminal justice system that maintains public safety. Since then, the ERLC has continued to advocate for the RE-ENTER Act and the EQUAL (Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law) Act. 

The RE-ENTER Act would allow eligible individuals with federal convictions to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a district court, attesting to a law-abiding future and a commitment to successful reintegration into society. The EQUAL Act would remedy the disparity in federal sentencing for crack and powder cocaine related crimes that unjustly and disproportionately targets people of color. 

Predatory Lending

Payday lending is the term used to describe the practice of lending small amounts of money to people for two-week periods, until their next payday. The average annual interest rates on these short-term loans is 391%, often leaving already impoverished families with crippling debts. These unjust lending practices are exploitative and predicated on consumer loss, trapping families in poverty. In response, the ERLC is advocating for the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act that would extend the same lending protections currently established for Active Duty military members under the Military Lending Act to all consumers, including veterans and their families. 

While Christians can have good-faith disagreements on the contours of our nation’s policies, the Bible is clear that all image-bearers are worthy of dignity and respect. As we face injustice in our world, indifference is not an option afforded to believers. God has called us to fervent prayer, advocacy, and service for all our neighbors. It is ultimately in this work that we will experience a taste of his kingdom on earth.

By / May 18

With more than 26 million refugees and over 82 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, how Christians and churches see migrants and refugees is vitally important. What we believe about God’s mission to seek, save, and reconcile the world to himself through Jesus is revealed, in part, by how we see migrants and refugees when it comes to ministry, care, and concern for them as people made in God’s image and loved by him. For American Christians, the global refugee crisis and presence of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers at our southern border provides us an opportunity to transcend political and cultural controversies in order to minister and love in the name of Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:33-34, God says to Israel, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” This same ethic was reflected by Jesus in his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). This was a specific command for the covenant people of God in ancient Israel, and while modern nation-states have unique responsibilities related to borders and security, the church embodying the character and mission of God has corresponding responsibilities and opportunities when it comes to ministry, mercy, compassion, and justice for the sojourner.

Personalizing our country’s border crisis

Back in 2018 when migrant children, families, and individuals traveling to our southern border were in the news, I remember the concern expressed by many. It can feel overwhelming and scary when we see news reports of large numbers of people coming to our borders to ask for entry. I had worked with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy for a few years, but the more cable news I watched and the more images I saw, the more concern I had about what was happening with these new people coming—and the more concern I heard from my neighbors, friends, and other Christians.

What I didn’t yet understand is that a large portion of the people I saw in the news at that time were not trying to come illegally. Many were coming here to claim asylum, which involves a legal process of presenting oneself on United States soil to ask for protection from violence and persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The right to claim asylum is established in U.S. Code and is longstanding federal law. Once the request has been made and credible fear has been established by border patrol officers trained in this regard, the asylum seeker is to have their case heard before a court that will judge whether or not the petitioner is granted asylum and allowed to stay. 

But, there was something more important at work for me personally than how our country manages its borders, as vital as that is. As I prayed about all of this, I realized that for me as a Christian and as a private citizen who is not a state agent or Border Patrol officer, I should think first about migrants and asylum seekers as people, as those God desires to come to him, and about opportunities to partner with Christians at the border in ministry. I believe that order at the border is an important part of caring for migrants, as well as providing security for a nation’s citizenry, but, while our government has clear responsibilities in maintaining order and security at our border, which we should support and encourage, the church also has a role in ministering to people in the midst of crisis. Border security and order provided by the government is not mutually exclusive to the church engaging in gospel and compassion ministry to those who come to us seeking refuge. 

Remembering how Jesus responded to the crowds who were harassed and helpless, how he was moved with compassion for them, and how he instructed his disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers into the harvest field (Matt. 9:35-38) will help frame our views of those who come to our borders seeking help. While some rejected the desperate crowds, Jesus saw people he could minister to and love. We can do the same.

Ministry on both sides of the border

I made my first trip to the border at Nogales, Arizona, in late summer 2018 and then to Tijuana in December of that year to visit ministries that were serving migrants from all over the world. I went to El Paso in 2019. Then, as I moved out to California to pastor a church that year, I went back to Tijuana to view what was happening with churches doing ministry there. I began to see the border as a place where people from many nations gathered and where churches on both sides worked behind the scenes to care for those in need, to pray, and to share the love and gospel of Jesus while people waited for legal entry. 

I learned that many of the people who come to the border are already evangelical Christians or come to faith in Christ as they encounter churches who are opening their sanctuaries, homes, and lives to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (See World Magazine reporting from Sophia Lee in 2019 explaining border ministry in the Las Cruces-El Paso area). Instead of seeing the border primarily as a place of fear and chaos, I began to also see it as a place where human need and desperation meets the ministry of the church as it holds out the life and hope of Jesus in the midst of a raging storm. God is at work in and through his people in the borderlands. 

In work led by Juvenal Gonzalez working with the San Diego Baptist Association and Mexican Baptist churches, I have seen people from many nations receive food, shelter, love, and the gospel at the El Chaparral Gate in Tijuana while they live in tents and wait. I joined with Ed Litton, current SBC president, and other SBC leaders in August 2021 to connect again with this ministry and to provide care, hope, and breakfast to hundreds of migrants who were there waiting for a chance for their asylum claim to be heard. Recently, Gonzalez and the churches on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border fed and ministered to hundreds of Ukrainian refugees a day who traveled to Tijuana to wait and petition for protection in the U.S. California Baptist Disaster Relief, Send Relief, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stepped in and provided assistance as well. 

In October of 2021, I visited the El Paso Migrant Ministry Center at Scotsdale Baptist Church that works in partnership with the El Paso (TX) Baptist Association. I saw a church that transformed their facility to make room for migrants that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol brought to them for care. The ministry center now works with NAMB to receive teams and volunteers from around the country to minister to the dozens of migrants who are brought to them each day. 

I have visited churches and seen ministries in border towns that altered their ministries to make room to provide places for people to stay while they transition to other parts of the country. While I’ve never visited Brownsville, Texas, I’ve heard about the ministry of West Brownsville Baptist Church and others who have cared for and seen many come to Christ through the work of receiving migrants. Just last fall, I heard from Mexican border officials in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, tell us that the churches on the Mexico side were making all the difference in providing care and ministry during the migrant surges. When the Mexican government doesn’t know what to do with the people who come to them, they turn to the churches for physical and spiritual help and resources. The U.S. government often does the same thing.

Christians along the U.S.-Mexico border are acting in the name of Jesus to bring hope and order out of chaos, pain, displacement, rejection, and desperate need. When I ask pastors on both sides of the border why they engage in this ministry of welcome, they are always confused by the question. They’ve told me that they do this because this is what Jesus does and it is who he is. They see no other way to follow him in their context than to welcome and minister to the stranger who comes to them.

This kind of ministry doesn’t just happen along the border. It is happening everywhere, from South Carolina to California. Recently, I spoke with an Afghan man in Northern California who told me that many of the Afghan refugees he’s met know they are being received and treated well in America because of the influence of Christians and churches who follow the Bible and are welcoming and loving from the heart. This man was not a Christian, and he came from a Muslim background, but he said it was clear that the teachings of Jesus had an influence on how Christians welcomed his fellow countrymen. He recounted stories of pastors bringing Afghan refugees to his store to buy supplies for them with their own money. This left an impression on him as he recognized that their faith led them to act in kindness toward others. He let us pray with him at the end of our conversation.

More migrants coming?

We will continue to have opportunities to welcome and minister to immigrants and refugees in the name of Jesus, either at the border or in towns across our country. The COVID-19 pandemic public health order called Title 42, which allowed the U.S. government to suspend asylum law and expel migrants without hearing their claims in court, is set to expire in late May. With this potential change in policy and the possible full renewal of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP or Remain in Mexico), expectations are rising that there will be a significant increase in the number of migrants coming to our southern border seeking asylum and refuge. 

While concern grows over this development, churches on both sides of the border will continue to represent Christ and minister to people in need who come to them. In addition, churches all over the country have the opportunity to join with these border churches and ministries to support their ongoing front-line work in ministering to the sojourner. While our government and Border Patrol have a job to do in keeping order and security as they manage the border, battle cartels and human and drug smuggling, and enforce our laws, the church also has a role in helping those in deep need who enter our country. And, with the arrival of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees over the past several months, along with others from around the world, the opportunities to receive and minister to the nations that have come to us are potentially greater than ever before. To learn more about this, you can watch the recent webinar hosted by the ERLC.

As the world continues to experience wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, corruption, and persecution, Christians in America have an opportunity to welcome refugees fleeing violence and support fellow believers engaging in ministry along both sides of our own southern border. Our first response to migrants and refugees should not be fear or rejection. Instead, we should prayerfully ask God what he might be doing through these circumstances and how we can join him to tell a better story by bearing the burdens of others and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

By / May 16

The Biden administration recently announced that they plan to terminate Title 42, a pandemic-era rule that closed the United States’ borders to asylum seekers and others who migrate, on May 23. Title 42 has been in place since March 20, 2020, and has been used extensively to immediately expel migrants once apprehended without allowing them to assert their legal right to request asylum. After the administration’s announcement of rescinding Title 42, bipartisan concerns were raised about its termination, and whether the U.S. government was prepared for the anticipated influx of migrants at the border.

In 2021, roughly 2 million individuals were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border. Because most individuals were apprehended, often through voluntarily presenting themselves to border agents to seek asylum, then immediately expelled, many migrants attempted to cross multiple times. It is estimated that around 27% of these encounters were from repeat crossers. Of the 2 million apprehensions, about 1.1 million individuals were immediately expelled, with only some family units and unaccompanied children allowed to enter to pursue asylum claims. 

It remains unclear whether the Biden administration will pause its anticipated withdrawal of Title 42 to prepare for the potentially significant spike in attempted crossings and asylum requests this summer. Additionally, while many of these individuals have been and will continue to come from Central America, there have also been reports of growing numbers of migrants arriving to the border from Haiti, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, India, and even Ukraine.

Though each migrant’s journey to the U.S. looks different, many face some of the same tragedies and hardships on their journey. Horrific violence, extortion from cartels, emotional trauma, rape and sexual assault, and lack of basic necessities are commonplace for migrants on their journey to the U.S., especially for women and children. As we once again see headlines around immigration in the news, it is essential for us to stop and consider why so many still choose to come, given the difficulty of the journey and the uncertain futures that migrants face upon reaching the U.S.

The factors that cause each migrant to make the difficult decision to leave home vary for each individual situation and country. However, there are some consistent, widespread issues that are often cited as the root causes of migration: corruption, violence, and poverty. 

Corruption

Perhaps the most widespread root cause of migration is corruption. Corruption is especially damaging because where it persists, other evils can thrive. Where corruption is allowed to fester, it can easily spread to many institutions in a country and region: police, government, the judicial system, businesses, and even, in some instances, religious institutions. Once people have completely lost trust in their institutions, individuals are often relegated to despair and hopelessness. Many begin to believe that their situations cannot improve or that they will be unable to receive redress for injustices committed against them. While corrupt governments exist all over the world, they are currently particularly prevalent in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and Caribbean nations. Government leaders rake in huge sums of money while refusing to hold free and fair elections and failing to invest resources in the basic services that their citizens need to survive. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters throughout the world, especially in Central America, have exacerbated and highlighted these issues to the watching world. The inefficiency and corruption of these governments have prevented vulnerable people from receiving the necessary recovery aid, adequate testing and PPE to fight the pandemic, and have severely hampered the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, leading to prolonged and heightened suffering at the hands of this disease and these natural disasters.

Violence

It is in these environments of corruption that violence is especially able to thrive. Cartels and gangs are enabled to act without fear of punishment and are able to easily bribe and infiltrate the institutions that should protect the vulnerable. These dynamics are particularly hurtful to women and children, who face increasing levels of violence, including femicide and sexual violence. Impunity for these crimes is typical, with conviction for violence against women under 3% in Central America. With no threat of meaningful retribution, gangs and cartels are allowed to terrorize the vulnerable.

In addition to these trends in Central America, many are being forcibly displaced due to violence all around the world. Following the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan this summer, thousands were forced to flee. As Russia has now waged war in Ukraine, it is estimated that as many as 10 million individuals might be displaced, with over 4 million already leaving the country, creating the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. 

Violence is also often a factor for those who face persecution because of their religion or ethnicity. Open Doors’ recent World Watch List, which analyzes where it is most difficult to be a Christian, highlights countries where believers are being forced to flee for their Chritian faith. While many of these people seek protection through the refugee resettlement program, its severe backlogs and lengthy processing time force some to attempt to travel to the southern border to seek asylum.

Poverty 

A third factor that often spurs emigration is poverty. As individuals struggle to meet their basic needs, face no economic opportunity, and receive little assistance and aid from their governments, many are forced to make the difficult decision to migrate. Parents who see no opportunity for their children or are unable to provide for their needs have to reckon with these harsh realities. Nearly 10% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, attempting to survive on less than $2 per day, with children accounting for two-thirds of the world’s most poor, and for those older than 15, about 70% have no schooling or only basic education.

Oftentimes, poverty is directly linked to these other factors of violence and corruption. According to World Vision, “Although countries impacted by fragility, crises, and violence are home to about 10% of the world’s population, they account for more than 40% of people living in extreme poverty. By 2030, an estimated 67% of the world’s poor will live in fragile contexts.” 

Why does it matter?

Understanding why people migrate is essential to addressing our broken immigration system wisely. While there are sharp disagreements on how exactly our system should be fixed, few would argue that it currently works effectively. Addressing the root causes of migration must be an integral part of our national strategy to reform our immigration system. 

The ERLC has joined other evangelical organizations in urging both Congress and the administration to prioritize addressing these issues through equipping local Nongovernmental Organizations and civil society organizations, including faith-based organizations and churches, to meet the needs of their communities and fight against these forces of violence, corruption, and poverty. One piece of legislation that works to do this in the Northern Triangle is the Central American Women and Children Protection Act. The ERLC is actively advocating for the swift passage of this bill which would allow the vulnerable, particularly women and girls, to find safety in their communities without having to face the dangerous journey to the U.S.

Secondly and primarily, for us as Christians, understanding why people migrate helps us to see the dignity of these migrants, to better understand their pain, and to respond with empathy and compassion, rather than with partisanship or suspicion. It is much easier to see migrants as something to be feared or hated when we don’t first stop to consider their individual stories and the forces that brought them to our borders. As migrants arrive to the U.S., churches have an opportunity to reach the nations without leaving our neighborhoods. Migrants have experienced tremendous difficulty, and it is imperative that the Church respond with compassion and rise up to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the most vulnerable among us—in the same way that Jesus has cared for us. 

By / Mar 29

As the horrific war in Ukraine continues to unfold, the United States and the world are faced with a litany of challenges and concerns to address amidst the conflict. In addition to the geopolitical concerns, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that demands the attention of our world leaders. President Biden and allies of the U.S. have already taken a number of steps to hold President Putin accountable for his actions and to prevent the spread of this aggression. 

The United States has banned the importing of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal imports. Billions of dollars in humanitarian aid have already been sent to assist the war-torn region and support the brave Ukrainians defending their homeland. Additionally, the administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukranians who are currently in the U.S.. This was an important way for the U.S. to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine by ensuring that our Ukrainian neighbors do not have to fear deportation but can stay and work here, at least until the end of the conflict. 

On March 24, Biden announced that “the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression,” and went on to state that “we’re focused on reuniting families and providing refuge to those in harm’s way.” The ERLC was grateful to see the U.S. and our allies take these important steps, and we recently sent a letter thanking the administration for these actions. In that letter, we also laid out three areas of particular concern for Southern Baptists that the Biden administration should consider and take proactive actions to address.

1. Supporting Ukrainian refugees in Europe and at home

Over 3.5 million people have already fled Ukraine and another 6.5 million are currently internally displaced within the country. It’s estimated that as many as 5 million refugees may eventually seek refuge outside of the country. Throughout Scripture, we are specifically commanded to care for refugees. While we commend Poland and other neighboring countries who have welcomed these vulnerable people in the face of this immediate crisis, we know that Western Europe and the U.S. will have a role to play as well. 

Many resettlement organizations in the U.S. are still struggling to fully rebuild after several challenging years and have been further stretched thin by the heroic work of resettling Afghan parolees. It is vital that we support these nations that have taken in refugees and invest in rebuilding our refugee resettlement program to allow many to find refuge in the U.S. in a timely fashion.

2. Protecting religious freedom for religious minorities

The belief that religious freedom is essential for all people to be able to live out their faiths fully is central for Southern Baptists. We are deeply concerned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be detrimental to the religious freedom enjoyed by Christians and other religious groups in the country. The Ukrainian church is among the most vibrant in Europe and is the primary missionary-sending country for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 

While many of these believers have fled, many others have made the difficult decision to stay and minister to their neighbors in these difficult times. Reports of a Russian “kill list” include religious minorities, and there is strong reason to believe that those spared will face intense persecution and will be forced to practice their faith in secret. It is essential the the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities be kept at the forefront of any negotiations or strategies that might be considered.

3. Ensuring that intercountry adoption remains viable in Ukraine

These times of war and disruption often most severely harm those who are already vulnerable. Certainly, orphans in Ukraine fall into this category as they face imminent danger and diminishing resources. As Christians, we are specifically called to care for orphans around the world and view intercountry adoption as an important way of doing that. 

It is essential that intercountry adoption remain open and viable for these vulnerable children and for families who have already begun this process and are awaiting to be united with their children. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, they suspended foreign adoptions, and there’s grave concern that they could do the same if this illegal invasion of Ukraine is successful.

In these tragic times, we diligently raise these concerns to those in power and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable in Ukraine. We also bolster this advocacy with fervent prayer. Christians must continue to seek God and pray for peace in our world, wisdom for our leaders, and protection for the vulnerable.