WASHINGTON (September 22, 2005) – The Refugee Council USA, a coalition of organizations committed to assisting refugees, is urging the Bush Administration to develop a "robust budget" that will allow the United States to expand its refugee admissions and services.
In a letter to President Bush signed by Mark Franken, executive director of Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and chair of RCUSA, the coalition said "sufficient funding is essential if this life-saving work is to be accomplished."
Specifically, RCUSA recommended the President's Fiscal Year 2007 budget include:
* $1.2 billion for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, which would allow for the admission into the United States of 90,000 refugees, a goal articulated by the President in 2001. In addition, funding at that level would enhance the nation's ability to avoid shortfalls in food, medicine and other vital supplies abroad.
* At least $50 million to replenish the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, which allows the State Department to respond to refugee crises in the Near East, South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.
* At least $764 million for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (DHHS/ORR). This funding will be used to provide transitional assistance to refugees, social services for refugees and asylees, Cuban-Haitian entrants and victims of trafficking and torture. In addition, funding from this account is used to assist more than 7,000 unaccompanied alien children who come into federal custody each year.
* And sufficient funds for other essential refugee related budget items such as the new Refugee Corps within the Department of Homeland Security.
"While we are clearly aware of the numerous competing requests during these times, we hope that you will develop a refugee budget proposal that responds to the full scope of refugee needs," Franken said. "The freedom from fear and despair that America represents to refugees around the world can only be fully realized with a robust budget."
Other signatories to the letter include: John Salzberg, Washington Representative, Center for Victims of Torture; Joseph Roberson, Director, Church World Service/Immigration and Refugee Program; C. Richard Parkins, Director, Episcopal Migration Ministries; Tsehaye Teferra, Ph.D., Executive Director, Ethiopian Community Development Center; Neil Greenbaum, President & CEO, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS); Cha Lee, Executive Director, Hmong National Development; Johan Ketelers, Secretary-General, International Catholic Migration Commission; Arnold Leibowitz, President, International Refugee Research Institute; Robert Carey, Vice President for Resettlement International Rescue Committee; Fr. Kenneth Gavin, S.J., Director,
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA; Dr. Pary Karadaghi, Executive Director, Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Inc.; Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., President , Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service;
Doua Thor, Executive Director, Southeast Asia Resource Action Network; Lavinia Limón, Executive Director, U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants; Carolyn Makinson, Executive Director, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children; Sammy Mah, Executive Director, World Relief.