1. Letter
  2. Immigrants & Refugees

118 Representatives Send Letter to Appropriations Committee Demanding Full Funding for Refugee Programs

By Susan Nahvi


On March 16, over 100 members of Congress sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, calling on them to fully fund refugee accounts for the 2019 fiscal year. This letter was lead by Representatives Juan Vargas, Julia Brownley, David Cicilline, John Delaney, Alcee Hastings, Ted Lieu, Bill Pascrell, Bradley Schneider, and Adam Schiff.

Dear Chair Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro, Chair Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey, and Chair Carter and Ranking Member Roybal-Allard:

As you consider funding for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), we write to urge you to support U.S. national security, foreign policy, economic, and humanitarian interests by maintaining robust funding for international humanitarian assistance for refugees and other populations. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is a longstanding bipartisan humanitarian program that enables the United States to provide lifesaving protection to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Forcibly displaced people lack access to the most basic necessities of life, including food and nutrition, clean water, safe shelter, healthcare, education, livelihood, and protection from conflict, war, and violence. Beyond these grave humanitarian concerns, the presence of large populations of forcibly displaced persons is an urgent strategic and security concern for the nations and regions in which they live. U.S. funding helps to ensure that the basic human needs of persons fleeing persecution are met while they are displaced, supports permanent solutions to their displacement, and supports the countries hosting them.

Accordingly, we respectfully request that the Committee ensure we can meet the needs of these vulnerable communities by allocating $1.9 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account, $3.604 billion for the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, $50 million for the Department of State’s Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, $4.4 billion for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account, and explore options for enhancing funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education:

The Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill funds the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which helps states and local communities welcome and support refugees and other vulnerable populations on their path to self-sufficiency. In addition to refugees, ORR also serves increasing numbers of unaccompanied children, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking, and victims of torture.In particular, there is an increasing need for services for trafficking and torture survivors, yet funding has remained stagnant same for years. We request that Congress allocate $1.9 billion for the agency to adequately serve all of the populations within its mandate and respond to unanticipated needs.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs:

The Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account funds the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). This account provides overseas assistance to displaced refugees, supporting refugee admissions, and funding lifesaving services in humanitarian emergencies. The crises in Syria and Iraq continue to escalate dramatically, and there are likewise serious humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Burma, and Central American countries. Therefore, we request $3.604 billion, which will be critical to ensure that PRM can continue to service currently displaced populations while responding to numerous emerging humanitarian crises.

Escalating violence and instability in many parts of the world have placed increasing demands on the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account—an emergency draw-down account that provides an important “safety valve” during emergencies. The ERMA authorized level has not been increased since the mid-1990s. We request the Committee fund this account at $50 million in order to enhance our country’s ability to respond quickly to unanticipated crises, and expeditious, draw-down authority provided to the Secretary of State.

The International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account funds humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons. Meeting the needs of internally displaced persons is one way to prevent the need for them to flee their countries of origin and become refugees. We request that the Committee allocates $4.4 billion in order to meet the needs of growing numbers of persons worldwide who are displaced within their own countries, including those inside Syria and Iraq.

Homeland Security:

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plays an important role in processing applications for refugees, asylees, and other humanitarian programs. Currently, USCIS is fee-funded by applicants for non-immigrant visas and other immigration applications. Thus, USCIS faces the challenge of increased backlogs and delays in the processing of refugee and asylum applications. We urge appropriators to work with USCIS and other agencies involved in the refugee screening to identify whether additional funds could enhance USCIS’s ability to ensure timely processing of refugee and asylum applications, including the carrying out of security screening

Our first priority is the safety of the American people. We remain deeply committed to safeguarding the public from terrorist attacks, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. These goals are not mutually exclusive, and can be pursued in harmony. That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees we do so only after subjecting them to the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States.

We deeply appreciate your support for these services and your consideration of these requests, as we seek to provide this critical funding to serve and protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people and maintain our legacy as a global humanitarian leader.

Sincerely,

Juan Vargas

Julia Brownley

Bradley S. Schneider

David N. Cicilline

John K. Delaney

Alcee L. Hastings

Ted W. Lieu

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Adam B. Schiff

Sheila Jackson Lee

Barbara Lee

Ruben Gallego

Gwen Moore

Gerald E. Connolly

Filemon Vela

Anthony G. Brown

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Salud O. Carbajal

Keith Ellison

Paul D. Tonko

J. Luis Correa

Janice D. Schakowsky

Luis V. Gutiérrez

James R. Langevin

John A. Yarmuth

Mark Takano

Sander M. Levin

Val B. Demings

Mike Quigley

Frederica S. Wilson

Anna G. Eshoo

Chellie Pingree

Grace F. Napolitano

Earl Blumenauer

Joe Courtney

Sean Patrick Maloney

Lloyd Doggett

Donald S. Beyer, Jr.

Raul M. Grijalva

Alan S. Lowenthal

William R. Keating

Bobby L. Rush

Yvette D. Clarke

Adam Smith

John P. Sarbanes

Ted Deutch

Eliot L. Engel

Adriano Espaillat

Jared Polis

Debbie Dingell

John Garamendi

Judy Chu

Dwight Evans

Joaquin Castro

Ben Ray Luján

Marc A. Veasey

André Carson

Donald M. Payne, Jr.

Jimmy Gomez

Brian Higgins

Stephen F. Lynch

Al Green

James P. McGovern

Denny Heck

Robin L. Kelly

Ro Khanna

Jared Huffman

Peter Welch

Ruben J. Kihuen

Ron Kind

Beto O’Rourke

Raja Krishnamoorthi

Joseph P. Kennedy III

Robert C. “Bobby” Scott

Diana DeGette

Zoe Lofgren

Ami Bera, M.D.

Doris O. Matsui

Michael E. Capuano

Richard E. Neal

John B. Larson

Elijah E. Cummings

Steve Cohen

Gregory W. Meeks

Mark DeSaulnier

Jamie Raskin

Linda T. Sanchez

Bill Foster

Jackie Speier

Thomas R. Suozzi

Niki Tsongas

John Lewis

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Bonnie Watson Coleman

Timothy J. Walz

Joyce Beatty

Daniel W. Lipinski

Brenda L. Lawrence

Danny K. Davis

Kathleen M. Rice

Nydia M. Velázquez

Emanuel Cleaver, II

Peter A. DeFazio

Elizabeth H. Esty

Dina Titus

Albio Sires

Suzanne Bonamici

Cedric L. Richmond

Seth Moulton

Norma J. Torres

Hakeem Jeffries

Carolyn B. Maloney

Susan A. Davis

Pramila Jayapal

Alma S. Adams

A. Donald McEachin

Ann McLane Kuster

Jerry McNerney

To download a PDF version of the letter, click below.

Susan Nahvi

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