Over the past three years, refugees, asylees and families hoping to reunite in America have suffered continued attacks, confusion and setbacks. As we begin this new decade, harmful policies continue to keep families separated and leave vulnerable refugees waiting in limbo. The Administration set a ceiling of just 18,000 refugees for 2020—a new historic low—and America’s global humanitarian leadership is sorely missed as life-saving resettlement slots dwindle in countries around the world.
In September, the President issued an Executive Order that requires governors and county executives to submit a letter of written consent to affirm their support of continued refugee resettlement in their state. A bipartisan majority of 42 governors provided consent, including 19 states led by a Republican. However, despite public outreach from advocates like you—and the strong show of support for resettlement from Georgia’s business, faith and civic leaders—Georgia remains an outlier. Governor Kemp has yet to agree to continuing Georgia’s 40-year history of welcoming refugee families fleeing persecution.
On January 15, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of this Executive Order, ruling that state and local officials cannot block refugee admissions in their jurisdictions. While the government could appeal this decision, refugee resettlement will, for the time being, continue as before in Georgia. We are no longer seeking consent from the Governor at this time, given the injunction, but will provide updates when the situation changes. We are grateful to DeKalb County, City of Atlanta, City of Clarkston and other localities for affirming their consent and support of the refugee program.
Thank you to everyone who called and wrote to Governor Kemp to let him know how important the life-saving refugee program is to Georgia community members. We know that he heard you. Georgia has long been a leader in showing hospitality to refugee and immigrant communities and will continue to be a destination for those seeking a safe and welcoming home where they can rebuild their lives.
With your support, the IRC in Atlanta welcomed 555 refugees from 19 countries—including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma/Myanmar, Afghanistan and Eritrea—to a safe, new home in 2019. Of these newly-arrived refugee families, 94% were self-sufficient and paying their own bills within six months of arrival—making Georgia’s refugee program one of the most successful in the nation. No matter what is happening in Washington, D.C., together we can continue to extend compassion to new Americans fleeing violence and persecution and say you are welcome here in Georgia.
In 2020, we expect to welcome 410 new neighbors to our state—305 refugees and 105 Special Immigrant Visa recipients who served the U.S. military in Afghanistan—and we know these families will enrich our communities as have the tens of thousands of refugees who have rebuilt their lives in Georgia over the past four decades. But we know too well that none of this is guaranteed, and it is essential that we continue to educate our elected leaders on the incredible contributions that our new American neighbors bring to our state. Please register and plan to join us for our seventh annual New Americans Celebration at the Georgia State Capitol (pictured below) on February 13 and help us make this our largest outreach and education day to date to show Governor Kemp—in person—just how important refugees are to Georgia.
On behalf of our clients and staff, thank you for standing with refugees and the IRC in Atlanta.
J.D. McCrary, Executive Director
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.