October 20, 2004
As you meet to settle differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of H.R. 4818, we write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services to respectfully urge you to do so in a manner that reflects a strong U.S. commitment to addressing the critical needs of the world’s poor and most vulnerable. Our concern stems from the values of Catholic social teaching, and the practical experience of our relief and development work in over 80 countries throughout the world. We would like to draw your attention to the following priorities:
Global HIV/AIDS: We support at least the Senate-approved appropriation of $2.417 billion for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. While we feel the nature of the pandemic warrants $3.6 billion from all budgetary sources, we urge inclusion of a minimum $2.4 billion for morally appropriate programs in H.R. 4818.
Commitments to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and International Development Association (IDA): We support at least the House-approved appropriations of $105 million for debt restructuring and $850 million for IDA. Recent statements by the Administration supporting “up to 100%” multilateral debt cancellation for HIPC countries need to be accompanied by serious financial commitment to debt relief and IDA in FY05.
Development Assistance Account: We support the Senate-approved appropriation of $1.46 billion for Development Assistance. Many poor countries that fail to qualify for aid through other programs rely upon the core development and humanitarian accounts for critical needs.
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA): We urge conferees to appropriate funding for the MCA that is closer to $2 billion than the amounts provided in the House- and Senate-approved bills. Without significant funding for the MCA, especially as it establishes itself as a credible development program, any hope for this innovative approach to foreign assistance will remain far off. USCCB/CRS also strongly supports Section 5093 of the Senate bill making permanent the authorization of up to 10% of MCA funds for threshold countries.
Africa: We support the Senate-approved $225 million for African Union-led peace monitoring presence and to address the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. We also urge appropriation of the Senate-approved amount for reconstruction efforts in southern Sudan. We support similar efforts for post-conflict reconstruction and security in Liberia and in the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly for Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Extractive Industries: We urge you to include Section 5101 of the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4818 requiring a public accounting of revenues from extractive industries that resource-rich developing nations ought to invest in development for their people, especially the poor.
Haiti: We support the House-approved appropriations of $50 million from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) and the Senate-approved appropriation of $45 million for Child Survival and Development Assistance for Haiti. As the poorest country in the hemisphere, Haiti deserves special consideration by the international community. The current situation will only worsen without a firm commitment to help.
Migration and Refugee and Assistance (MRA): We support an appropriation of $927 million for the State Department’s Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, which funds the U.S. refugee admissions and overseas refugee assistance programs. While this amount is higher than the appropriation that is provided for in both the House-passed and Senate-passed versions of the legislation, we believe this is the minimum amount necessary to meet the needs of this vulnerable population.
Emergency Refugee and Migration and Refugee Assistance (ERMA): We urge you to adopt the Senate-approved appropriation of $50 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account.
Refugee Admissions: We urge you to include Sections 581(a), 581(b), 581(c), and 581(d) of the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4818, in the conference agreement. These important provisions would encourage more participation by private voluntary organizations (PVO) with expertise in the protection of refugees in identifying and processing refugee admission and resettlement to the United States. They would also encourage the State Department to take the necessary steps to ensure that particularly vulnerable refugees are given special consideration for admission into the United States. Finally, the provisions require the Secretary of State to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the implementation of the refugee admission provisions under this section.
Vietnamese Refugees: We strongly encourage you to include Section 5100 of the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4818 in the conference report. Sec. 5100 would extend through the end of fiscal year 2005 the so-called “McCain Kids Amendment,” which permits in-country processing in Vietnam and refugee admissions for the sons and daughters of certain former Vietnamese reeducation camp prisoners.
Public Interest Parolees: We strongly encourage you to adopt Section 5034(k) of the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4818. This section would provide desperately needed immigration relief to a group of Indochinese parolees who assisted the United States during the Vietnam conflict and who lawfully reside in the United States.
Vietnamese Asylum Seekers in the Philippines: We strongly urge you to adopt language in the committee report accompanying the Senate-passed version of H.R. 4818. This language encourages efforts to resettle in the United States stateless Vietnamese in the Philippines and ensures that their cases can be brought to closure in a humane manner.
U.S. Policy Against Exporting Abortion: We urge the removal of the Senate-passed language nullifying the President’s “Mexico City” policy (against funding non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion as “family planning”), and the language in Section 560(b) barring the President from redirecting UNFPA funds to combat trafficking in women and children. We would urge Congress to sustain a presidential veto if these provisions are retained in the final bill.
We ask that you support funding for each of the above initiatives in addition to the funding levels for other health, development and humanitarian assistance programs. We appreciate that, as a conferee, you will be making funding decisions on these and other critical issues in the midst of a difficult fiscal climate. However, we believe that taking the necessary steps to improve the lives and dignity of the poorest people and strengthening our solidarity with the most vulnerable among us is not only our moral responsibility, but also an investment in global security and peace.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
Most Reverend Thomas Wenski
Coadjutor Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on Migration
Mr. Ken Hackett
Catholic Relief Services