This $5 million Latter-day Saint donation means more to refugee resettlement in 2021

Ragaa Hamad builds furniture at Deseret Manufacturing
in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. Deseret Manufacturing
products are made by refugees and often donated to refugees who
resettle in the United States.

Ragaa Hamad builds furniture at Deseret Manufacturing in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. Deseret Manufacturing products are made by refugees and often donated to refugees who resettle in the United States. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — As U.S. refugee resettlement agencies scramble to rebuild after four years of closures, cuts and losses, all nine agencies again will split $5 million in aid from Latter-day Saint Charities headquartered in Salt Lake City.

How much do Latter-day Saints provide to help refugees?

The resettlement agencies now have received more than $19 million in donations since 2016 from Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What did cuts do to resettlement agencies and the government?

Refugee admissions to the United States fell to 40-year lows during the Trump administration, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The Biden administration is expanding them again. Both the resettlement agencies and the government are caught in the middle.

Vox reported that:

  • Federal funding for refugees was slashed from 2017-20. The resettlement agencies cut staffing and closed nearly a third of the resettlement offices around the country.
  • Government staff for processing refugees also was cut, including a third of those who interview and vet the refugees before they are admitted.
  • The Biden administration wants to quadruple the number of refugees admitted this fiscal year, which ends in September. President Joe Biden has lifted the cap from 15,000 to 62,500.
  • While that is still lower than any year from 1980 to 2017, it's unclear whether the government can process that many new entrances in the next four months.

The resettlement agencies have to ramp up, too.

  • They need to find affordable apartments, employers willing to hire refugees and volunteers to help furnish apartments and take refugees to appointments, classes and interviews.

How do Latter-day Saint Charities' donations help refugees and agencies?

"Over the years, (Latter-day Saint Charities has) helped thousands of refugees find a safe, stable home in the United States — from furnishing apartments for families to supporting refugee mothers struggling to keep food on the table for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic," Megan Bracy, director of refugee and migrant services for the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a news release.

  • "We truly couldn't do it without them, and we cannot express our thanks enough," she added.

The donations include:

  • Cash for basic living expenses and skills training.
  • Commodities like mattresses and other furniture from Deseret Manufacturing.
  • Other commodities like food and hygiene from bishops' storehouses.

Latter-day Saint Charities "has been an incredible friend and partner," Alicia Wrenn, senior director of resettlement and integration with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, said in the news release.

When and why did Latter-day Saints start to donate to refugee resettlement?

The church has given at least $19 million in five donations to the nine U.S. agencies over the past six years.

  • The giving was spurred in part by an October 2015 letter from the First Presidency in Salt Lake City to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraging them to donate to the Humanitarian Fund. The letter fueled a record year for the fund, immediately doubling contributions, according to the Deseret News.
  • That letter was followed in 2016 by a church effort to provide refugee relief called "I Was a Stranger."
  • In January 2017, after President Donald Trump announced a four-month suspension of the U.S. refugee program, church leaders released a statement. They said the church has "special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war and religious persecution."

The church and its charitable arm also provide additional money and goods for refugee relief around the world.

What are the nine U.S. refugee resettlement agencies?

The nine agencies that will split the Latter-day Saint Charities donation are:

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Church World Service
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC)
  • World Relief

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Tad Walch

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