Saturday August 17, 2019
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Efforts to increase interfaith dialogue by Sikh Americans

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Washington: As many as 15 diverse civil rights and faith-based organizations joined by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC) at a White House event sought to reinvigorate American traditions of inclusion, freedom and interfaith cooperation.

The coalition, rooted in the belief that America’s strength comes from its diverse heritage, also launched an innovative project called, “Know Your Neighbour” calling on all Americans to share their own beliefs as well as understand and respect those of others.

“We are a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, non-religious people, and more – we live and work together and we need to have faith in each other,” said NSC Executive Director Gurwin Singh Ahuja, who designed the project.

Developed after extensive research, including NSC’s “Sikhs in the United States” report, Know Your Neighbour seeks to protect and strengthen the fabric of one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world.

“Americans know that minority religions, such as Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism, exist in the United States yet they don’t realise that they are their neighbors, friends and coworkers,” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, Senior Advisor to the National Sikh Campaign.

“If we can make that realization for those who are unaware, we are bridging a major gap towards tolerance and acceptance.”

The coalition also seeks to address the recent uptick in hateful rhetoric against religious minorities, which has led to increased discrimination, mistrust, and violence – particularly against Sikh and Muslim Americans.

“The rise in anti-Muslim sentiment has created a dangerous environment for all faiths – not just Muslims or Sikhs,” said Rana Singh Sodhi, brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the first Sikh man killed after 9/11.

“Truthfully, religious liberty and co-existence is at risk, and this interfaith effort to address these issues is more critical now than ever before,” he said.

The KYN coalition members include: American Civil Liberties Union, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Centre for Inquiry, Hindu American Seva Communities, Interfaith Alliance, Interfaith Youth Core, Islamic Networks Group, Muslim Advocates, National Council of Churches, National Sikh Campaign, Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism, Religions for Peace USA, The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, and Sikh Coalition.(IANS)

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Report: Trump Administration to Eliminate Refugee Admissions to Zero in Coming Year

Since the so-called “refugee ceiling” is an upper limit, and not a quota, the government is not required to meet the annual admissions number

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Migrant children sleep on the floor of a shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, July 17, 2019. Asylum-seekers grappled to understand a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refugee claims by Central Americans and many others. VOA

The Trump administration is considering more dramatic cuts to the U.S. refugee program, with one official suggesting the White House not allow any refugees into the country in the coming fiscal year.

In a Politico report released Thursday, government officials from several federal agencies attended a meeting last week and discussed several options that included a ceiling of 10,000 — well below the current refugee ceiling of 30,000, which is already an all-time low for the program.

The U.S. resettled 23,190 refugees since the beginning of fiscal 2019 last October. With 2½ months remaining until the count resets, the U.S. is on track to fall short of this year’s cap, according to U.S. State Department data.

Since the so-called “refugee ceiling” is an upper limit, and not a quota, the government is not required to meet the annual admissions number.

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Trump repeatedly attempted a ban on refugees with multiple executive orders on travel during his first year in office, citing “national security” concerns. VOA

Multiple figures

Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, one of the primary refugee resettlement nongovernmental organizations in the U.S., said he has heard multiple figures proposed for the coming fiscal year, all well below the program’s historical annual threshold of around 60,000 to 70,000.

In President Barack Obama’s last year two years in office, his administration made a concerted effort to increase the number of admitted refugees, with a particular focus on Syrians fleeing conflict and persecution.

And since the U.S. president is the one who ultimately makes the final decision when it comes to the number of refugee admissions, President Donald Trump has leeway to further reduce the total allowed.

“The president hasn’t made an actual decision, that won’t happen till October. But I suspect they’re testing the waters a bit to see if, in fact, the public will respond to this, and if there will be any public outrage,” Arbeiter told VOA. “So it is a proposed number, it is not a final number, but a number anywhere between zero, and we’ve heard 3,000, 7,000 10,000, but anywhere in that range, what it effectively does is it closes the door on refugees, and effectively constitutes a total ban on refugees.”

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The journey has become more dangerous because of greater reliance by refugees and migrants on smugglers to transport them to the U.S. border. VOA

Earlier ban attempts

Trump repeatedly attempted a ban on refugees with multiple executive orders on travel during his first year in office, citing “national security” concerns. Those worries, however, were not substantiated by data and no scientific study demonstrates a correlation between refugee admissions and elevated crime or security risks.

Each year, the president makes an annual determination, after appropriate consultation with Congress, regarding the refugee admissions ceiling for the following fiscal year. That determination is expected to be made before the start of fiscal 2020 on Oct. 1, 2019.

ALSO READ: Democrats Campaigning on Medicare for All Wrestling With How to Pay for The Dramatic Overhaul

The U.S. State Department is one of the leading agencies involved in the deliberation process with the White House over refugee admissions. In an emailed statement Friday, a spokesperson reiterated the president makes the decision on the ceiling every year “after appropriate consultation with Congress.”

Beyond that, however, the spokesperson said the State Department would “not discuss internal and interagency deliberations or communications involved in such deliberations.” Last year, however, the White House was criticized by members of Congress after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the fiscal 2019 cap would be 30,000, before the legally required meetings with Capitol Hill lawmakers happened. (VOA)