WASHINGTON, DC—Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), a coalition of 24 U.S.-based non-governmental organizations dedicated to refugee protection, urges Congress to fund refugee programs at levels that reflect the reality that the world is currently experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The last thing that the United States should do during a time of historic refugee crises is to cut lifesaving refugee budget accounts.
“Now more than ever, we must allocate funding to programs that align with our American values of freedom, compassion and opportunity,” Hans van de Weerd, Chair of RCUSA, said. “The United States has historically been a global refugee protection leader, both through strong support for refugees overseas, as well as through funding a robust domestic refugee resettlement program. We can, and must, continue to do both. During this challenging and tumultuous time, we urge the Committees on Appropriations to demonstrate support for America’s leadership in the world and our longstanding tradition of welcome by robustly funding these important humanitarian accounts during the FY 2018 appropriations process.”
RCUSA is requesting that at least 75,000 refugees be resettled in FY18, and believes that the Administration’s budget proposal that would support the resettlement of 50,000 is inadequate and an abdication of U.S. leadership. RCUSA is advocating for a continuance of FY17 funding levels, and therefore recommends funding of $1.688 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account. The REA account, which funds the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), is a crucial component of fostering refugee integration and self-sufficiency. In addition to providing services to resettled refugees, ORR is tasked with implementing social services for unaccompanied minors, asylees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Special Immigrant Visa holders, victims of human trafficking, and survivors of torture. The President’s budget proposes a 31% cut to refugee services that help refugees achieve long-term integration and economic success and assist communities and local partners in welcoming new Americans. RCUSA also recommends $3.604 billion in funding for the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account. The MRA account provides overseas assistance to displaced refugees, supports admissions to the U.S. of the most vulnerable refugees, and funds lifesaving services in humanitarian emergencies.
“The Department of State’s International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account funds USAID’s humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons. RCUSA appreciates that funds included in the FY 2017 appropriations package were specifically aimed at eradicating famine in countries including South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. This early and preventive assistance will help prevent further displacement and regional strain, but we recognize that these disasters will not be over quickly and continued funding will be critical. RCUSA recommends that Congress appropriate $3.8 billion for USAID’s disaster assistance work in FY2018,” said van de Weerd.
RCUSA also strongly opposes the president’s proposal to eliminate the Department of State’s Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, which for example, in recent years has provided stabilizing assistance to countries of first asylum that have given safety to South Sudanese and Syrian refugees. RCUSA urges a continued funding level of $50 million for this account in FY 2018.