JRS/USA Accompanies, Serves & Advocates for Refugees

By Sarah Carroll, Director of Communications, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

JRS International Director, Rev. Thomas H. Smolich S.J. (in dark blue), visiting St. Mary Assumpta in uganda, where JRS provides scholarships, teacher training & school supplies (photo by JRS International)

We are currently facing the greatest crisis of displaced people since World War II. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 68.5 million people are currently forcibly displaced from their homes – that’s 30 people newly displaced every minute. The Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA) is committed to working to respond to these people and to their plight. We work in more than 50 countries around the world to accompany, serve and advocate for refugees.

Fowzia, originally from Somalia, is a former student in a JRS camp who now volunteers as an English teacher (photo by JRS International)

In recent months, our advocacy work through JRS/USA has been to ensure that no vulnerable group or nationality is excluded from entry into the United States; that the dignity of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons everywhere is restored; to promote the education of refugees around the world; and to bring on new leadership. 

Advocating for Refugee Resettlement
The U.S. response to the global refugee crisis is in retreat. In the past year, only 18,327 refugees have been resettled in the U.S., compared to an historical average of 85,000 refugees resettled per year. This number may be even lower next year. Together in consultation with Congress, the Trump Administration is in the process of setting an annual target: a Presidential Determination (PD) for Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2019. 

As an organization working with refugees around the world, we know first-hand how the U.S. refugee resettlement program provides a life-saving solution to the most vulnerable refugees. A diminished U.S. role will disrupt families and place individuals at further risk. JRS/USA has been advocating in coalition and with lawmakers to push for a higher annual target and a more robust resettlement program. We have also been asking our friends and supporters to make their voices heard on this issue. Click here to write a letter to your representatives: Encourage them to provide a life-saving option for refugees who are unable to return home or stay in the country to which they fled, by setting a refugee admission target of at least 75,000 refugees in FY19.

Two smiling students at the Frans van der Lugt Centre in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon (photo by JRS International)

Education for Refugees
This fall, children across the U.S. will fill unused back packs with fresh pencils and notebooks, take a reluctant first-day photo, and head back to school. At this time of year, as we feel the excitement of a new academic calendar and the start of endless opportunities, it is important to reflect on the importance of education to all people, especially the most vulnerable in our world - displaced people. Click here to learn how you can support them through the JRS/USA “Back to School” gift catalog.

New Leadership
This past spring, JRS/USA brought on Joan Rosenhauer, a nonprofit and advocacy expert and Catholic humanitarian, to lead the organization as its first female Executive Director. A recognized leader in the international humanitarian world, she has relentlessly put her faith into action for over three decades, most recently serving as the Executive Vice President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Rosenhauer is a former JRS/USA Board Member and has spent most of her career mobilizing the U.S. Catholic community and advocating for social justice.