We are disappointed by reports of the President’s anticipated decision to suspend the United States refugee resettlement program for 120 days, to discontinue issuing visas to people from Syria and other predominately-Muslim countries, and to reduce the number of refugees who will enter the country from 110,000 to 50,000 this fiscal year.

Suspending a humanitarian program that serves vulnerable refugees fleeing war and violence does not make America great or safe. Of all immigrants, refugees are the most vetted and the most in need of protection. We are particularly distressed that those who have suffered trauma and persecution, including children en route to the U.S., may not be able to join their families here.

The anticipated executive order signals that the U.S. Government is walking away from its responsibility to lead as the world wrestles with the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Refugees and their families are our neighbors, and just like you and me work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the cultural, economic, and civic life of New England and beyond.

It is important that people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire speak against this action not just because it is contrary to the founding values of this country, but because it will tangibly affect the economic prosperity of our region. As New England’s workforce ages, businesses will increasingly rely on new Americans to grow. Quite simply, the U.S. resettlement program helps American communities become better places to work and live.

The work of the International Institute of New England will not stop. We remain committed to welcoming and supporting newly-arrived refugees as soon as the suspension ends. In the meantime, we will continue to serve the refugee women, men, and children we have resettled during the past year and to offer skills training, English language instruction, and other programming to immigrants of all backgrounds. At this critical time for new Americans, we remain focused on helping them find stability and achieve success in our shared communities.

Jeff Thielman
President and CEO