April 1, 2005
As the Senate prepares to take up H.R. 1268, the FY 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, we write to urge that you provide adequate funding for humanitarian emergencies and oppose the inclusion of Division B, the "REAL ID Act of 2005" of the House-passed bill. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) wish to underscore that emergency foreign assistance and appropriate immigration policies also contribute to our national security and to global peace and justice.
We urge you to resist funding cuts for programs that were in the President's request for the Palestinians, peacekeeping operations, tsunami relief, Sudan, and food aid. The President's request for $200 million for the Palestinians should be supported and the Senate bill should not include onerous conditions and limitations passed by the House. These conditions have little to do with accountability and transparency, and that may restrict the President's ability to act in the interests of peace and security. These and other emergency needs cannot wait for regular FY 2006 funding. In addition, funding these critical needs through the regular FY 2006 appropriations process would put stress on next year's foreign assistance resources and would prevent vulnerable people from getting the help they urgently need right now.
More specifically, the USCCB and CRS express profound disappointment that the House-passed version of the Supplemental bill reduced the President's request for critical peacekeeping operations by $200 million. We encourage the Senate to support the full request of $780 million. For Sudan, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo, these operations play a crucial role in alleviating conflict and instability that continue to claim too many innocent victims.
In contrast, USCCB and CRS welcomed the House passage of an amendment approved by the Appropriations Committee offered by Rep. Jackson to restore the Administration's request of $150 million in food aid for Sudan. However, we maintain that an additional $534 million is urgently needed to address critical global food aid needs. We therefore urge your support for a total of $684 million for Title II Food Aid. Even before the tsunami, severe food aid shortages forced relief agencies such as Catholic Relief Services to scale back, and even cancel, some development programs providing agriculture, public health, and education to thousands of poor people. Emergencies like the tsunami and the Darfur crisis have only exacerbated the need for more food aid. Without adequate funding for food aid, hundreds of thousands of people may succumb to starvation and dehydration in Darfur alone, where ongoing conflict has caused severe food and water shortages.
Moreover, although the President requested $53.4 million for assisting Sudanese refugees, the House increased that amount to $103.4 million in order to make up for shortfalls in FY05 funding for refugee admissions and assistance. We urge you to provide an additional $20 million above the House-passed level of funding for Migration and Refugee Assistance to enable the U.S. government to meet the President's commitment to provide safe haven to 70,000 refugees in 2005.
We are also pleased that the House approved an amendment offered by Rep. Jackson, which would provide an additional $50 million for disaster assistance for people in Sudan and other African countries. We strongly urge the Senate to support this additional funding for ongoing humanitarian emergencies affecting Liberia and neighboring countries in West Africa, Northern Uganda, Eastern Congo and Burundi, among others.
Finally, we strongly urge the Senate to reject Division B of the House-passed Supplemental, the so-called "REAL ID Act of 2005." This Division would unreasonably raise the standard and evidentiary requirements for obtaining asylum in the United States; repeal current law regarding the issuance of driver's licenses; permit the waiver of all laws to erect barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border, and outsource to "bounty hunters" the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws. These unprecedented provisions would effectively eviscerate the protection of asylum, thus preventing victims of persecution from receiving safe-haven in the United States and eliminating the few procedural due process rights immigrants have when challenging deportation. This measure should be rejected. At a minimum, it does not belong in an appropriations bill designed to respond to emergency needs around the world.
We have a fundamental moral obligation to heed the suffering and meet the urgent needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. We urge you to include these critical funding requirements and to delete unreasonable migration provisions in the FY2005 supplemental legislation. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our priority recommendations.
If you have questions regarding our request, please feel free to contact Rev. Andrew Small, OMI of the USCCB staff at 202 541 3153 or Bill O'Keefe of CRS at 410 234 2988.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
Bishop of San Bernardino
Chairman, Migration and Refugee Services
President, Catholic Relief Services