This letter was drafted by Anne Derse, an Episcopal deacon, partner to Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), and Love God, Love Neighbor alumni.

As a faith leader and former career diplomat of 30 years, I write to express strongest support for welcoming refugees in our nation. I urge President Trump to resettle at least 95,000 refugees in the United States in fiscal year 2020. His announcement is expected before September 30th. I hope the Administration will consider many voices like mine and help protect refugees in urgent need.

Each day an estimated 44,000 people are forcibly displaced from their homes, worldwide, due to violence, persecution, and war. The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that over 70.8 million people are currently forcibly displaced worldwide, 25.9 million of whom are registered as refugees. More than half of those registered are children. Despite this burgeoning crisis, the United States last year set its lowest resettlement number ever – only 30,000 refugees. The FY 2019’s refugee admissions ceiling represents the lowest number of refugees in the history of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program – at precisely the time of greatest need. We can do so much more.

Immigrants and refugees and the many strengths they bring have played a substantial and positive role in the founding and building of our nation. It is our shared story that makes us strong. It is our belief that America is a beacon of hope that unites us. The American people express their support for resettling refugees in our communities every single day. From welcoming a refugee family upon arrival at an airport, to assisting them with English language classes or simply helping them navigate the local bus line, our communities stand for welcome. Immigrants and refugees are not people to be feared – they are men, women and children forced to flee to save their lives, now looking for a safe place to call home.

Refugees bring immense value to our communities. They have invigorated economies, brought innovation to our towns, and made our communities stronger through their contributions to public life, our places of worship, cultural institutions. Refugees in the U.S. are students, business owners, dedicated employees, customers, elected officials, and community leaders.

They are us.

And let us not forget: all our faith traditions, our common sense of decency and our very humanity call on us to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger. America, I am confident, can find the way to keep our country safe and strong while affirming compassion and recognizing the dignity ofour fellow human beings.

Mr. President, we hope that you will take into account the strong desire of communities to welcome refugees as you make your decision on the number of refugees to be admitted for fiscal year 2020. We are counting on you.


Anne Derse
Deacon and Community Life Coordinator, St. John’s Norwood Parish, Bethesda, MD
Former U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania and Azerbaijan