Humphrey School News—December 10, 2015

Dean Eric Schwartz Contributes to National Conversation on Refugee Resettlement Hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations

During a conference call with more than 115 religious leaders from around the United States hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Humphrey School of Public Affairs Dean Eric Schwartz  discussed the future of refugee resettlement in the United States in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. The conversation is part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.

Schwartz serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, having been appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013. He is former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for population, refugees, and migration, during which time he managed the State Department’s policy and programs for U.S. refugee admissions and U.S. international assistance worldwide.

Dean Schwartz begins the conversation by posing the question, “Why is this resettlement program so important if we’re only resettling a relatively modest number of the world’s refugees?” He outlines the fact that the U.S. isn’t taking in as many refugees as neighboring countries to Syria and suggests that the U.S. should provide significant and substantial assistance to support those governments who are accepting more refugees.

Excerpts from Schwartz’ remarks:

“If we’re expecting their support for diplomatic and other efforts that we’re making—the United States is making–—to reach political settlement, it seems very counterproductive to be sending those governments such a negative signal by effectively shutting off our resettlement program for Syrians.”

In emphasizing the responsibility of burden-sharing with U.S. allies in Europe, Schwartz says that “failure to do so will not only be perceived as an expression of hypocrisy, but also as a reflection of really diminished leadership that could undermine our own capacity to influence European governments.”

In regards to ISIS, Schwartz supports that “the refugee resettlement program, which has welcomed persecuted Muslims and others from around the world, is a highly effective rebuke of the(ir) preposterous notion.” Yet, U.S. leadership needs to go beyond refugee resettlement to include a much greater effort of support for international humanitarian efforts, as well as support for efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.

“I believe that communities of faith have a critical role to play. I think we are in an extremely fragile and critical moment in American history, and I think members of the religious community have got to recognize this fact."


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