YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Catholic Relief Services has praised President Joe Biden’s decision to rescind Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” which forbid the immigration of people from 13 Muslim-majority countries.
Nikki Gamer, the CRS Media Relations Manager, told Crux the U.S. “should be doing more to help resettle the most vulnerable, not less.”
“By welcoming all refugees—regardless of religious affiliation— we show the world that we are an open, tolerant nation that seeks to protect the vulnerable,” she said..
Following are excerpts of Gamer’s interview with Crux.
Crux: The CRS has welcomed the Biden administration’s reversal of Trump’s refugee ban from several Muslim-majority countries; despite a perceived security threat they might pose. Why?
Gamer: One of CRS’s guiding principles is that we help people based on need, not creed. Along these same lines, as the world’s most prosperous nation, we should be doing more to help resettle the most vulnerable, not less. By welcoming all refugees — regardless of religious affiliation — we show the world that we are an open, tolerant nation that seeks to protect the vulnerable.
On your point about refugees as a security threat, the U.S. handpicks refugees who resettle here, and they go through multiple layers of interviews and security checks, making them the most thoroughly vetted group of people who come into our country. Security screenings are rigorous and involve the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, refugees have sometimes been wrongly associated with the very terrorism that they have been victim to. What most people don’t realize is that most of the world’s refugees are women and children.
Why are these people fleeing their homes?
Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in record numbers are escaping violence, abject poverty, climate degradation, and lost jobs.
In places where there is active fighting, it is simply dangerous for people to stay in their homes—so they flee to survive. In fact, in order to be declared a refugee, you must show that you have been forced to flee your country because of violence, war, persecution or reasonable fear of persecution.
Give us a sense of the risks the migrants take, either as they go through the Sahara or negotiate their ways through the high seas and forests.
Millions of families face not only incredible dangers but also dire hardship for getting from one day to the next. By the time refugees make it to a neighboring country, they have typically fled horrible violence, have lost loved ones, and arrive in a foreign place with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They need the most basic essentials to get by: Food, a roof over their heads, a safe place to sleep. Many also need urgent medical assistance and care and education for their children.
Alarmingly, because so many of these conflicts are protracted, a refugee can spend years —sometimes decades – living abroad before returning home.
Would it not have been more appropriate to address the root causes of migration?
Following Church teaching, we believe that people have the right to find opportunities in their home countries while also having the right to migrate when conditions in their country of origin preclude them from providing for the safety and wellbeing of their families.
At CRS, we are committed to supporting people in their home countries, and when/if they choose to migrate abroad.
How has CRS been involved in helping African migrants over time?
CRS works in many different countries and contexts in Africa supporting those who choose to migrate. For example, when West Africans choose to migrate, we seek to help them move with increased agency, dignity and safety. We work toward this goal by providing economic activities and protection, and by changing perceptions about migration.
To learn more about our migration-related work in West Africa, you can visit our website, which has some great information and guidance on how to donate.
Those interested in advocating for refugees and migrants from all over the world can join our Lead the Way campaign by clicking here and signing up.