The Trump administration earlier this month floated the idea it may accept zero refugees next year during a meeting with other federal agencies, CNN reported.
Even if zeroing refugees is only a proposal, the suggestion that it’s being discussed by federal officials is “more of a reality than it ever was,” said Stephanie Gromek, development and communications coordinator for Church World Service in Lancaster.
It became more difficult for refugees to resettle in the United States this year after the Trump administration set the maximum number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to 30,000, down from 45,000 in the 2018 fiscal year. Church World Service saw its resettlement numbers in Lancaster fall from 407 in fiscal year 2016 to 198 in the 2018 fiscal year.
Internationally, there are nearly 26 million refugees displaced from their homes in 2018, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
“When we’re constantly in this negotiating state of ‘Should we do it? Should we not?’ — these are people’s lives that we are talking about,” Gromek said. “These are human beings that have been caught in these terrible situations.
“They’re not the political tools that they've become,” Gromek added.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who represents Lancaster and parts of York in Congress, said in an interview last week he would not support zeroing out the refugee cap.
“We won’t get to that,” he said.
“It is important to me that we continue to welcome people to the country who are fleeing very desperate situations and want to live the American dream,” Smucker said. “That’s important to me; that we continue to do that, and we will continue to do that.”
For Emtiaz Zourob, Lancaster has become her second home.
It’s where she found safety from persecution. If she hadn’t been resettled as a refugee in Lancaster city five years ago, she believes she would have been imprisoned in her native city of Gaza. Or worse — killed.
“I just want to live in peace for me and for my kids,” said Zourob, who has two children, ages 11 and 7. “Everyone deserves to have a good life and be safe.”
Even current refugee policies aren’t enough, added Zourob, who said she was separated from her children for more than 4½ years.
Church World Service agrees and believes the U.S. could handle a national capacity of 95,000 refugees per year.
“It’s a mere drop in the bucket of what we can do as a nation,” Gromek said, adding that local communities want to continue to resettle people in need.
To show support for refugee resettlement, Church World Service will host a “We Stand for Welcome” event on Saturday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Penn Square. The community gathering will include speeches from Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace, Gromek, Zourob, other refugees and faith leaders.
The event will include activities such as postcard writing and other ways to volunteer with Church World Service, Gromek said.
“At the end, all of us are just human beings and we are here as visitors on this earth,” Zourob said. “I want all of us to be kind to each other.”