Refugees

Some 2,000 Lancaster County residents rallied in Lancaster city's Penn Square in January 2017 on behalf of refugees and immigrants.

THE ISSUE

Church World Service and the Lancaster Chamber met with Congressman Lloyd Smucker on Sept. 16 to discuss the nation’s refugee policies. It was the first meeting between the Lancaster office of Church World Service — a refugee resettlement agency —  and the congressman in about a year, LNP’s Gillian McGoldrick reported.

Smucker is not just a conservative politician, but a cautious one. So while his press secretary says he’s met with Church World Service 10 or so times, we’re not surprised that those meetings have dwindled in the past year as the Trump administration has drawn a hard line on refugee resettlement.

We’re just pleased he met with Church World Service earlier this month.

As McGoldrick reported, Church World Service representatives want Smucker to support the Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement Act, or the GRACE Act, “which would set an annual mandatory minimum of 95,000 refugees welcomed to the United States.” It was introduced in April by Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

This proposed legislation, McGoldrick noted, is seen as crucial by Church World Service because Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, has suggested setting a refugee cap at zero for the 2020 fiscal year.

Homeland Security Department officials suggested setting the limit somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 people, Politico reported in July.

For this thriving and expansive nation to accept a mere 10,000 refugees, or even fewer — people fleeing violence, persecution and torture — would be a shameful rejection of President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 pledge that the U.S. would “continue to share in the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression.”

As McGoldrick reported, Trump “must submit his presidential determination by the end of September to set the number of refugees allowed into America for the following year. Trump has cut the refugee cap each year of his presidency, down to a new low of 30,000 for 2019.”

Smucker told Church World Service he was still reviewing the GRACE Act, but supports a “broader discussion around refugee policy.”

That, folks, is what you call the Washington sidestep.

We would ask Smucker to remember Lancaster County’s rich history, often rooted in religious belief, of welcoming the stranger. (Indeed, the first part of Church World Service’s name is “church” — it was founded in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II by 17 Christian denominations.)

And, as a businessman, Smucker might want to consider why the Lancaster Chamber continues to make the case that refugees and other immigrants are essential to this county’s economic well-being.

As an op-ed co-authored by Chamber President Tom Baldrige last September pointed out, “Without legal immigration and refugee resettlement, Pennsylvania would have had a net loss in population in every year since 2012. ... (At) a time when our unemployment rate is at historic lows and the need for employees is at historic highs, the immigrant and refugee population is an absolutely essential piece of our ability to continue to grow the local economy.”

According to an LNP story in June, Church World Service saw its resettlement numbers in Lancaster fall from 407 in fiscal year 2016 to just 198 in fiscal year 2018. For both resettlement agencies and employers, this is a worrying trend.

Smucker raised a valid concern when he said at last week’s meeting that the GRACE Act would “fundamentally ... change the way refugee limits are allocated and who makes that decision.”

He noted that it was determined in the past that “the president should have the flexibility on a variety of factors, and I have some concerns and think we’d need to consider carefully whether it makes sense to change that.”

We’d argue that the president — any American president — should act in accordance with this nation’s long tradition of serving, as Reagan put it, as “a beacon ... a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

As McGoldrick reported, those who met with Smucker last week also asked the congressman “to join the Bipartisan Congressional Refugee Caucus to show his support for Lancaster County’s historic resettlement efforts.”

Church World Service made this request last year, too. We hope Smucker finally heeds it, not least because he represents a city dubbed “America’s refugee capital” in 2017 for resettling 20 times the number of refugees per capita than the country as a whole.

“If you’re going to be from a special area, an important site in the country, you should be on the Bipartisan Refugee Caucus,” said Matt Johnson, a refugee community organizer at Church World Service.

We agree.

Smucker said, “I’ve always been proud of the fact that our community is a welcoming community.”

We’re glad he’s proud of this. We all ought to be. We want to be proud of his record of reflecting this county’s values in Congress, too.

Impeachment inquiry

No one should be elated that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump “abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own reelection,” as The Associated Press reported Tuesday evening.

This is a serious time for our nation. We have a deep and abiding belief in the democratic institutions and mechanisms created by our founders.

We hope the American people pay close attention to events as they unfold, and seek the truth in a nonpartisan way.