- Message from the Director
- Encuentro 2000: National Gathering & Celebration
- 2000 Regional Convenings
- Archbishop Silvano Tomasi Award Winners
- MRS Symposium Held in Preparation of New Pastoral Statement
- Demographic Trends: A Majority of Minorities
- News from Around the Network
- Clinton Honors Nun for Aiding Refugees
- Available Resources
- 1999 Migrant Farmworker Episcopal Liaison Visit to the Diocese of Yakima
- Dia de los Muertos Border Observance
- Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network Pastoral Formation Course
- St. Joseph the Dream Worker
- Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to Begin Circus Ministry
- Funds for Refugee Protection Lowered in FY2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act
In the entrance to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., stands this beautiful bronze statue of the Holy Family. Like so many of the world's refugees and immigrants, they are exhausted and seek some measure of rest for their difficult journey. Like so many of the world's refugees and immigrants, they live on the edge of survival. But they have themselves. They are united as a family. And they have trust in God at the center of their lives.
In our work in Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees this experience is repeated over and over. Are we not constantly impressed by the family unity and deep faith of so many who come to our country with nothing but themselves and their God? So many of them inspire us by their courage, their love for each other, their hope, their desire to work hard to keep their family together, their faith expressed in so many simple but joyful ways.
It is not surprising that later in the Gospel, St. Matthew has Jesus identify Himself with the stranger "I was a stranger and you took me in." Could it be the bitter refugee experience recalled in the early chapters of the Gospel that St. Matthew was harking back to? Through that experience, the Holy Family knew how much it meant to have a warm welcome, a friendly hand, a supportive person along the way.
At this time of year, the Holy Family reminds us of the importance of our work. In an environment which demeans the refugee and the immigrant and which tries to separate them as family, any work we do on in solidarity with them continues the work of Jesus. I congratulate you on all your effort and encourage you into the new millennium to continue against difficult odds to reach out to this special group of God's children. As Pope John Paul II wrote at the end of the Synod of America: "Taking the gospel as its starting point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence."
Fr. Anthony McGuire
Don't miss this opportunity for all Catholics in the United States to engage in conversations about who we are as One Church, in the fullness of our cultural and ethnic realities. Encuentro invites us to...
- celebrate our faith in the spirit of the Jubilee year 2000
- live in solidarity and justice
- honor the many faces in God's house
- share our histories in Christ
- embrace, in Christ, the path to forgiveness and reconciliation
- bridge the gap between faith and life
Migration and Refugee Services is pleased to announce the dates and cities of the upcoming USCC/MRS 2000 Regional Convenings for the PCMR and Refugee Programs networks. These Convenings mark the first time MRS has co-located the regional Convenings for PCMR and Refugee Programs, and we are excited at the networking opportunities that this will present. The theme for the Convenings is: "Many Faces in God's House: Serving People on the Move." The Convenings have a three-fold purpose: to provide training for diocesan staff, allow for information exchange between national and local offices, and networking for all concerned.
The USCC/MRS Midwest Regional Convening will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Oak Brook, Illinois (just outside of Chicago), March 23-25, 2000. The convening will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, and will conclude at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. The hotel cost is $89/night + tax. It is located 11 miles O'Hare International Airport and 15 miles from Midway. A detailed registration booklet with all pertinent information has already been mailed out to those in the Midwest. Please refer to this booklet when making reservations.
The USCC/MRS Southern Regional Convening will be held in Miami, April 27-29, 2000. This convening will follow the same Thursday - Saturday schedule. The hotel cost is $105/night + tax and is located 7.5 miles from Miami International Airport. A detailed registration booklet with all pertinent information is being prepared and will be mailed to those in the South after the New Year.
The USCC/MRS Western and Northeastern Regional Convenings are also being planned. The Western Regional will be held in San Diego, May 18-20, 2000. The Northeastern Regional is tentatively scheduled for Hartford, CT, June 22-24, 2000. Informational booklets will also be prepared for these meetings and sent to all diocesan directors and national consultants in those respective regions.
The MRS staff is working hard to design workshops that will be beneficial to both the PCMR and Refugee Programs networks. Workshops being offered at the regional Convenings will include: advocacy on behalf of newcomers, cultural orientation, volunteer recruitment and management, resource development, migrant worker policy issues, preserving ethnic spirituality and culture, and working with a sense of mission. There will also be ample time for the PCMR network to meet separately.. For updated information about the regional Convenings, check out our website at www.nccbuscc.org/mrs/convenings.shtml.
Thirteen nominations for the Archbishop Silvano Tomasi award were received in the MRS Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees. All of the nominations were examples of outstanding dedication and commitment to work done with immigrants, refugees, and migrants. It was a very difficult decision for the PCMR staff to choose from so many worthy candidates. The Archbishop Silvano Tomasi Award will have two recipients this year:
- Msgr. Dominic Luong, National Consultant, for his long-time, extraordinary service to the Vietnamese community in the United States;
- Mr. Zeferino Gonzalez, a former migrant farmworker, who has been ministering in the Diocese of Fresno for over twenty years.
- Sr. Adela Gross for her lifetime dedication and service to Hispanics and migrants; and
- Reverend John Oliveira for his long-standing commitment to the Portuguese Apostolate and his work for immigrants and refugees in the Northeast region of the United States.
MRS Symposium Held in Preparation of New Pastoral Statement The NCCB Committee on Migration sponsored a one-day symposium on November 11 to hear presentations and dialogue about the Church's response to newcomers during the new millennium. Dr. Phillip Gleason reviewed the Church's response to immigration during this past century from Melting Pot to Cultural Pluralism to Multiculturalism. Reverend Robert Schreiter then discussed the challenges and limitations of evangelization in a multicultural society and guided the reflection on how the Church should respond in the new millennium.
Reactions to the presentations were provided by respondents, Dr. Charles Keely and Msgr. Raymond East, who facilitated the responses from the panelists composed of persons involved in pastoral ministry, and the audience composed of members of the Committee on Migration, USCC staff, and other attendees.
Dr. Michael Foley from The Catholic University of America Life Cycle Institute, will deliver the first draft on or before Feb. 10, 2000, to MRS staff, who will then distribute it to the Committee on Migration for review. This draft will also be presented to the PCMR Advisory Board and National Consultants' meeting on Feb. 28-March 1, 2000. The Committee members will be asked to submit their comments by the end of February so that they can be incorporated into a revision, which will be presented for approval at the Spring 2000 Committee on Migration meeting.
Demographic Trends: A Majority of Minorities Recently released demographic projections for the USA in 2025 indicate that the country will experience an increased growth in minority populations over the next 25 years. Some of the findings:
- Total population will grow to 335 million, a 23% increase over the 1999 population.
- The population will be less Caucasian: 62% compared to 72% in 1999.
- The growth rate of the white population will be 6%, well below that of current minority groups.
- The largest minority group by 2025 will be people of Hispanic origin, who can be of any race. By 2025, there will be 60 million Hispanics, about 17% of the total population, compared to 30 million, or 11% in 1999.
- The African-American population will grow about 31%, but it will remain stable as a percentage of the overall population: 13% in 2025 compared to 12% in 1999.
- The fastest growth rate will be among people of Asian descent and Pacific Island descent—102%, from about 10 million in 1999 to 21 million in 2025. But they will remain a relatively small group as a percentage of the total population, at about 6%.
- Native Americans will be the group that changes the least as a percentage of the population: They will be 0.8% in 2025, compared to 0.07% in 1999.
According to the December 1999 issue of American Demographics (cf. pg. 21), American households may actually grow larger as they grow more diverse. Following a study from the U.S.Census Bureau, American Demographics reported that the average size of households in this country with at least one foreign-born spouse is typically larger than those where both spouses were born in this country. Moreover, the largest households in the United States are those in which both spouses were born in another country. However, the study did note that the presence of a foreign-born husband is more likely to coincide with large family size than the presence of a foreign-born wife.
Asian Buying Power
The Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia recently published a study that reports that Asian American disposable income is growing at a faster rate than every other ethnic group. The report, which was quoted by American Demographics (cf. December 1999, pg. 45), notes that the percentage of U.S. disposable income that is attributable to Asian has risen in the past decade from 2.9 percent to 3.5 percent ($229 billion). The states with the highest Asian aggregate buying power are California, New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Texas. The Selig Center study states that much of the increase in buying power can be attributed to the rapid growth of the Asian population in the past ten years. Furthermore, because of the high level of educational attainment and the relatively youthful working population among Asian communities, the level of Asian buying power is expected to continue to increase in the next millennium.
News from Around the Network Primer Congreso American Misionero
As one of the first expressions of the "solidarity" featured in Ecclesia in America, 30 people from the United States and 30 people from Canada joined the 3,000 participants in the Congress on Missions in Parana City, Argentina. (Insert) Particularly relevant to the PCMR Office were the discussion on inculturation and the conference on the Local Church-Responsible for Mission. The conference was very animated about mission, not such a front burner issue in the United States. Four proposals came from the conference:
- That the local churches of America promote concrete missionary projects as a way of celebrating the Jubilee Year;
- That the local churches form, send, sustain Missionary Teams, made up of lay people, consecrated religious, and priests who would bring the Gospel to the nations, beyond their particular frontiers.
- That in each nation or region centers of missionary formation be created characterized by a spirit of prayer, reflection, teamwork for laity, priests, seminarians, consecrated religious. These centers should offer to the participants a strong experience of Christ to prepare them as witnesses for an evangelization appropriate for the place they are sent;
- That there be created a massive organism for Catholic communication on the continental level.
From Wednesday, Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 15, about 40 priests, sisters, and laity working in the Brazilian Apostolate gathered in Danbury, Conn. The meeting focused on orientation and development of survival skills in a new land. A very helpful presentation was given by a Brazilian psychologist married to an Irish-American. Many of the newcomers felt very supported by the spirit of fraternity. Four bishops from Brazil participated, as well as Bishop Peter Rosazza.
Towards a Filipino Ministry Council
Eighteen diocesan directors and lay leaders for Filipino apostolate from the dioceses of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Las Vegas and staff from USCC/PCMR met at the Franciscan Serra Retreat Center in Malibu Hills on Dec. 3-4, 1990 to explore the possibilities of forming a Council of pastoral agents ministering among Filipinos in the United States, and to suggest an agenda for that Council. A draft of the Constitution and By-Laws of the proposed Council, prepared by Fr. Jose Arong, OMI, was presented and discussed. Fr. Joe plans to hold three more meetings in the Midwest, East Coast, and Southeast and expects to complete the process by mid-year and hopes to formalize establishment of a Filipino Ministry Council towards the end of the year 2000.
Amalia Mamaed also made a presentation about the Encuentro 2000 focusing on how Filipinos can use the encuentro process to bring about the formation of such a Council. Participants suggested among others the following agenda for the Council : a) formation program for Filipino pastoral agents; b) consciousness raising and visibility of Filipino presence in the U.S.; c) support initiatives for youth programs; d) support the preservation of Filipino family values; e) promote the process of inviting extern priests developed by PCMR; f) continue the "Pastoral Experience" program for American priests ministering among Filipinos; g) explore use of full or part-time pastoral agents to promote Filipino ministry at the diocesan level; h) develop resources; i) encourage Council members to use resources available from the NCCB and other funding sources.
The proposed Council will not undertake projects at the diocesan and parish levels, but will support and encourage such projects, build a network, and be an information clearinghouse for diocesan and parish pastoral agents.
Cross-Cultural Orientation Program
A Cross-cultural Orientation Program for foreign-born pastoral agents serving in New England, held from November 2-4, 1999 at the LaSalette Retreat Center in Attleboro, MA., was sponsored by the diocesan directors of ethnic ministries of New England. Thirty-five priests, sisters, and catechists from India, Haiti, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Philippines, Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia, Mexico, and Nigeria attended this initial endeavor. Sr. Mary Motte, FMM, facilitated a day on cross-cultural "missionary" ministry. Day two offered workshops of pastoral issues such as generational ministry, outreach, and faith formation with opportunity for small group workshops for priests and sisters. U.S. personnel were invited for part of the workshop in order to be a "bridge" between the newcomer and American communities. A presentation on stress factors of cross-cultural ministry was given on the final day. Each day was framed in the context of prayer, liturgy, and socializing. The planning Committee will be meeting soon for evaluation and follow-up response. For more information, please contact Sr. Marie Prefontaine, Director, Ethnic Ministries, Diocese of Worcester at 508-791-7171 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fr. McGuire and Fr. Okure participated in the meeting of the Irish Apostolate in Atlanta. About 25 priests, sisters, and lay people participated, as well as Fr. Paul Byrne, representing the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants. The commission has arranged for priests and sisters to come to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago. Plans are afoot for committees in Atlanta, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles. The good news was that the Irish Government is about to establish a task force to make long-range proposals about emigration. (There are 4 million Irish in Ireland and 1.2 million living out of Ireland.) It is hoped that the Task Force will deal with education about the perils of emigration, especially without proper documents.
Clinton Honors Nun for Aiding Refugees By Ned Kilkelly -- The New York Times (excerpts)
Monday was a whirlwind day for Sister Jean Marshall, a Dominican nun from the Bronx. She flew to Washington, had lunch at the State Department, then went to the White House to receive the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton.
Tuesday, it was back to normal. She juggled phone calls, scheduled meetings, worked on several grants that are due next week and ate half a sandwich at her desk at the St. Rita's Center for Immigrant and Refugee Services, which she founded 16 years ago to help the Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants then flooding the borough.
What St. Rita's does, Sister Marshall said, is help recent immigrants and refugees ease the transition from a life on the run, often in wartime, to life in a new country that to them seems to offer nothing but promise.
Sister Marshall was one of five Americans on Monday to receive the Roosevelt award, established last year by the president in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations.
About 525 Kosovars who arrived in New York after the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia have passed through St. Rita's since July, Sister Marshall said. ...She expressed hope that Monday's award "would help spread the word about what we're doing to help these people."
Report on Catholic Use of the U.S. Religious Worker Visa Program - with Suggested Guidelines is available from the MRS Policy Office; call (202) 541-3208 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Building Bridges: Profiles of Diocesan Ministry to Ethnic Groups - This new PCMR resource contains ethnic ministries models from many of the most ethnically-diverse dioceses in the country, as well as from dioceses with much smaller programs. It is designed for those dioceses without a clear-cut ethnic ministries structure that may benefit from other models. This resource is available to anyone by contacting the MRS/PCMR office at (202) 541-3230, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uprooted People provides coverage of information and action relating to refugees, migrants, and internally displaced people. It is published every three months by the International Relations team, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland. e-mail: email@example.com; WCC Website: http://www.wcc-coe.org.
Welcome to the United States is now available in Albanian. Refugee Resettlement offices can obtain free copies from the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. Pastoral care agents should contact their local resettlement office for a copy.
Coming soon... United States: Refugees Online The American Red Cross said it will launch a new online system for tracking refugees and displaced persons worldwide. During the Kosova crisis, the Red Cross developed an online database for Kosovar refugees arriving in the United States. Together with Oracle, the software company, it plans to expand this "Displaced Persons Linking System" as a worldwide general reference point which refugees and other displaced persons can access. (Info obtained from Refugees, published by the Public Information Section of the UNHCR.)
Most Reverend John W. Yanta, Bishop of Amarillo and USCC Bishops' Committee on Migration Consultant, made his annual episcopal liaison pastoral visit to migrant farmworkers in the Diocese of Yakima from Sept. 12-15, 1999. Fr. Juan Carlos Barragán, a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo, accompanied Bishop Yanta as well as Sr. Charlotte Hobelman, MRS/PCMR Coordinator of Migrant Ministries, and Ms. Celine Caufield, Executive Director of the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network.
Most Reverend Carlos Sevilla, S.J., hosted and accompanied Bishop Yanta during his pastoral visit which included the opportunity to meet agricultural workers, local growers, pastors and Catholic communities in St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Retreat Center in Cowiche and Our Lady of the Desert Parish in Mattawa, Washington. Ms. Jane Villanueva, Director of the Office of Social Justice for the Diocese of Yakima, assisted with the planning and local arrangements for visits to local parishes, farms and fruit packaging plants.
Sr. María de Jesús Ibarra, O.P., Director of Hispanic Ministry Formation, also accompanied the visitors and offered insights into the adult faith formation program for Spanish speakers in the diocese.
Sr. Charlotte Hobelman, SND, represented MRS' Office of PCMR at a liturgical celebration on All Souls Day at the border between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California in memory of the 420+ migrants who have died crossing the border since the initiation of Operation Gatekeeper. The observance was planned by pastoral ministry representatives from Catholic dioceses in the United States and Mexico. Ms. Linda Arreola, the Assistant Director of Social Ministry in the Diocese of San Diego, called for a change in the 1996 immigration laws which have proven to be unjust. Mr. Philip Anderson, representing the Lutheran Church, also called attention to the responsibility born by both the governments of Mexico and the United States who have to see the deaths of these persons whose names, ages and state of origin are recorded on each cross lining the border road. The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of the Diocese of Tijuana and Bishop José Isidro Guerrero Macías of the Diocese of Mexicali. Afterward, the congregation processed behind Bishop Romo Muñoz as he blessed each of the crosses. Representatives of a coalition with members from Mexico and the United States also meet annually to observe la Posada at the border.
Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network (CMFN) Pastoral Formation Course CMFN is increasing opportunities for migrant farmworkers who are pastoral leaders who work as to participate in the Migrant Farmworker Pastoral Formation Course during the Jubilee Year. This course will be offered twice, in Spanish, from Feb. 10-15 and from Feb. 17-22, 2000, at the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas. Funding is available to enable migrant farmworker representatives from dioceses across the United States to attend the course. This formation program is intended to enable Catholic migrant farmworkers and their families to join more fully in the life of local parishes. For more information or to recommend participants for this year's course, contact Ms. Celine Caufield at the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network at (208) 384-1778 or at CMFNCC@aol.com. Information is also provided online at www.cmfn.org.
St. Joseph the Dream Worker By Sr. Charlotte Hobelman, SND
The life and example of St. Joseph hold particular significance for immigrants, refugees, the world's displaced peoples and those around the world who assist them to fulfill their dream of finding a new home. The month of December encompassing the Advent season of preparation for the birth of Christ and the days of celebration following this central event in the history of salvation is an especially appropriate time to reflect on what the life of St. Joseph can teach the peoples of the world who are currently in transit or awaiting a new life and the stability of a place where they are accepted and which they can call home.
The gospel of St. Matthew relates four occasions when God communicated with St. Joseph through dreams. The first account precedes the birth of Christ (Mt. 1: 18-24). St. Matthew recounts another of St. Joseph's dreams after the departure of the magi (Mt. 2: 13-14). Joseph received the message of the angel in a third dream while the Holy Family was living in exile in Egypt (Mt. 2: 19-21). The final dream occurred sometime during the return journey of the Holy Family to Israel (Mt. 2: 22-23).
What do we know about St. Joseph based on these four accounts from the Gospel of St. Matthew? First, we know that he was a man of deep faith and trust in God. The events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus turned St. Joseph's life upside down. As a successful, small businessman in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, he had built up a reputation as an honest, hardworking craftsman, so much so that Mary's parents were probably delighted that their young daughter was betrothed to such a respected man in the local Jewish community. Yet God told him to marry a young woman pregnant with a child not his own, leave his growing business and clientele, return to the town of his ancestors where no members of his immediate family lived any more, escape by night because of an assassination plot on the life of his adopted son, support a family in exile in a foreign land, and then return to his hometown of Nazareth and start his life all over again from scratch.
We also learn that St. Joseph was a man of constant prayer, in communication with God both day and night. So habitual was his dialogue with Yahweh, that God spoke to Joseph through angels in his dreams, not once, but four times.
Third, we realize that Joseph acted as God's dream worker by immediately responding to the messages received from angels. He wasted no time questioning the veracity or practicality of the divine commands he received, but obeyed quickly and obediently according to the directives given by God's messengers. Scripture says that: "When Joseph awoke, He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. . . Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. . . He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel . . . he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled. "He shall be called a Nazorean." (Mt. 1: 24; 2: 14, 21, 23)
Given his sudden loss of economic security, displacement, homelessness, poverty and eventual forced exile, St. Joseph, as a skilled, respected craftsman easily capable of supporting a family, could have become a very bitter and angry man, blaming Mary for "messing up his life" when he seemed to have everything going for him--but he didn't. He could just as easily have become passive, succumbing to the attitude of a victim suffering from a "woe is me syndrome" because of the misfortunes life had inflicted on him--but he didn't. He could have just given up because his efforts didn't seem to get him anywhere--but he didn't.
How does this reflection on the life and example of St. Joseph in the infancy narrative of St. Matthew relate to the daily experiences of immigrants, refugees, the world's displaced people and those around the world who assist them to fulfill their dreams of finding a new home? Many nations in recent decades have experienced the departure or loss of their people through natural disasters, wars, economic downturns, the burden of debt, genocide, devastating disease, political instability and ethnic conflict. St. Joseph teaches us the importance of being grounded in our faith traditions whatever our life circumstances, of maintaining a solid and active belief and trust in God's goodness and provident care in our lives, of being faithful to prayer even in the midst of wrenching personal upheavals, of listening to God in our dreams, and of being ready at all times to recognize divine messengers in our lives and to respond actively and obediently to God's guidance in our lives through them.
St. Joseph believed in a God who does not will evil or misfortune on anyone, but does permit it. Our greatest test of faith, as it was for St. Joseph is to believe and trust God even when faced with tremendous personal loss and suffering in our lives, unspeakable injustices and tragic changes in our life's course. St. Paul expresses it this way: "We know that all things work for good for those who love God." (Romans 8: 28) During this season of Advent and Christmas, we believe and trust with St. Joseph that out of the most horrendous situations, God in his own time brings forth even greater good, perhaps not during the current generation, but in that of our children.
Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to Begin Circus Ministry Sr. M. Dorothy Fabritze, MSC, and Sr. Bernard Overkamp, MSC, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart based in Reading, Pennsylvania, will begin a full-time in circus ministry in January 2000. Sr. Charlotte Hobelman addressed their community at a benefit dinner on Oct. 17, 1999 to help raise funds for the truck and trailer which they will serve as their home. Their ministry with the Roberts Brothers Circus will take them along an eastern route from Florida through the Northeast. The Sisters will be commissioned during the annual gathering of Pastoral Ministers with People on the Move from Jan. 6-10, 2000, in Sarasota, Fla.
Funds for Refugee Protection Lowered in FY2000 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) has been advocating for refugee protection with its coalition partners here in Washington, DC and with the Catholic network across the country. We urged Congress to fund the Clinton Administration's requests of $660 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) and $30 million for Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA). These accounts fund emergency responses to refugee crises throughout the world, provide protection assistance to refugees abroad, and provide initial resettlement services here in the United States.
Unfortunately, Congress and the Clinton Administration reached an agreement that would fund MRA and ERMA at levels below both the appropriated levels for the previous year and the initial budget requested by the Administration. The cut in MRA funding reflects a $35 million drop from the Administration's initial request. The cut in ERMA funding reflects a $17.5 million reduction.
In response to the cuts, the State Department has indicated that the regional ceilings (such as for Africa and Asia) will remain at the proposed levels, but that the decrease in funding will reduce the unallocated reserve from 6,000 to 1,000. This reserve is used for unforeseen refugee situations such as Kosovo. The overall refugee admissions ceiling for FY 2000 will drop from a proposed 90,000 to 85,000 refugees.
There are bright spots in refugee protection for FY 2001. The regional ceiling for Africa, set at 18,000 for FY 2000, has been raised consistently in the last several years, reflecting the many grave refugee situations in that region. The overall refugee admissions ceiling for FY 2000 will remain higher than FY 1999's ceiling of 78,000. MRS is already advocating that the lower refugee funding levels in H.R. 2606 not be used as the baseline for next year, but that the baseline for MRA at least remain at the amount the Administration requested, $660 million.
Thanks to many of you in the Catholic network who contacted your Congressional members about this important issue for refugee protection.