Sorry Mr. President, Utah’s LDS Leaders, Governor Want More Refugees Not Fewer

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement of support for refugees, just a month after Utah’s governor urged President Donald Trump to send more refugees to the conservative state. The church’s governing body, the First Presidency, wrote that the Latter-day Saints “feel tremendous joy” in helping people “no matter where they may live in this world.”

“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are deeply committed to living the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor,” the church’s leadership wrote. “It is therefore with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of more than 70 million people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, or religious persecution.”

The church, which is based in Utah, encouraged members to “help create welcoming communities by volunteering their time, talents and friendship to individuals and families who are integrating into our societies.”

The statement of support by Latter-day Saints leadership comes on the heels of a letter from Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) to President Trump asking for more refugees. In late October, Herbert responded to Trump’s executive order that allowed states and cities the authority to veto refugee resettlements.

“I encourage you to allow us to accept more international refugees in Utah,” Herbert wrote. “We have historically accepted and resettled more than 1,000 refugees each year from a variety of troubled regions of the world. Unfortunately, that number has dropped for the past two years and is on track to decrease more this year. We know the need has not decreased and are eager to see the number of admittances rise again.”

Herbert noted that the state’s history with “religious refugees fleeing persecution” has led the people of Utah to “empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their homes and we love giving them a new home and a new life.” The Republican governor added that refugees in Utah do well and have integrated into their new communities.

While accepting refugees is a partisan issue in Washington, D.C. and throughout the country, it’s not in Utah as the governor’s letter received support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republicans in the state legislature, the state’s congressional delegation and its city halls, readily backed up Herbert, as did Democrats across the state, The Washington Post reported.

“I have to be honest: I don’t have any idea why it’s a partisan issue nationally. It’s never been one here,” Brad Wilson, Utah’s Republican speaker of the House, told The Post. “Regardless of political party, we value these people.”

Why It Matters

The Trump administration has actively cut the number of refugee admissions into the U.S. substantially since coming into office. In fiscal year 2017, approximately 53,700 refugees resettled in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. Since then, the number of admitted refugees has plummeted with just 22,500 in FY 2018 and to 30,000 in FY 2019. The president announced that the refugee admissions ceiling for FY 2020 was just 18,000, a steep decline from the 110,000 ceiling set by President Barack Obama in FY 2016.

According to Pew Research, just 76,200 refugees have been admitted into the country during Trump’s administration, which is approaching its third year. Meanwhile, 85,000 refugees were admitted in FY 2016, the last full fiscal year of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Cindy Huang, vice president of Strategic Outreach at Refugees International, told The North Star that Trump’s policies are not just hurting refugees hoping to resettle in the U.S. “There is a lot of evidence that the Trump administration’s policies are harming not just refugees, but local economies,” Huang said. “Even more important than these statistics [economic impact] are the voices of local government and business leaders who want resettlement to continue and grow.”

According to the New American Economics, Trump’s limit on refugees will lead to fewer tax dollars and fewer jobs created. In 2017, refugee households paid nearly $23.3 billion in taxes and held almost $62.9 billion in spending power.

Following Trump’s executive order regarding the veto, state capitals and city halls have been more supportive of refugees than hostile, according to The Post. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum announced he agreed with Trump’s executive order, but said the state was committed to welcoming more refugees.

“North Dakota has had success at integrating refugees who have become responsible citizens and productive members of the workforce,” Burgum said in a statement on November 19.

“Therefore, with ongoing diligence, North Dakota consents to receive resettlement refugees, in conjunction with the continued assent and cooperation of local jurisdictions in our state.”

What Can Be Done

There are a number of organizations that you can support to help refugees resettling in the U.S. Refugees International’s Huang told TNS that people can voice their support for the GRACE Act, a piece of legislation that would make sure the U.S. accepts refugees at a level that reflects the historic average.

  • Refugees International: The independent organization advocates for “lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people.” Huang also said that people “can donate to local organizations, volunteer, and share their support, including by calling and visiting their state and national representatives. One of the most important things we can do is help change the narrative by being a voice for welcome by sharing our support in everyday interactions, whether in person or on social media.” To donate to the organization, click here.

  • International Rescue Committee: The IRC provides assistance to refugees in 40 countries and 26 states by providing clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment. To get involved or to donate to the IRC, visit here.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.