March 15, 2005
As the House takes up consideration of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (H.R.1268), I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to urge you to oppose the inclusion of H.R. 418 to the bill and to provide adequate funding for global emergencies.
I strongly encourage you to resist any attempts to cut funding for programs that were supported in the bill sent to the floor by the House Appropriations Committee for Palestine, peacekeeping operations, and food aid. These are critical needs that cannot wait for regular FY2006 funding.
In addition, we understand an amendment may be offered that would provide an additional $100 million for refugees and disaster assistance, especially as they address the needs of Sudan and other African countries, and the admission of refugees into the United States. Refugee and humanitarian emergencies continue to affect Liberia and neighboring countries in West Africa, Northern Uganda, Eastern Congo and Burundi, among others. I urge you to support such an amendment if it is offered.
As you may know, the House Rules Committee has issued a rule which will allow consideration of the inclusion of H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act, as part of H.R. 1268. We oppose attaching the REAL ID Act to the supplemental legislation. H.R. 418 would raise the standard and evidentiary requirements for obtaining asylum in the United States; repeal current law regarding the issuance of drivers 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 nations immigration laws.
We strongly believe that H.R. 418 would harm asylum-seekers; promote unsound public policy; and eliminate the few procedural due process rights immigrants have when challenging deportation. We urge you to oppose inclusion of H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act, to the legislation. Including this controversial legislation in H.R. 1268 also could slow action on the aid package in the U.S. Senate.
The USCCB was dismayed that the Presidents proposal for peacekeeping operations was reduced by $200 million. For the countries of Sudan, Cote dIvoire, Haiti, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo, such operations are crucial to establishing and expanding effective missions to alleviate conflict and instability that continue to claim too many innocent victims. We encourage you to restore the $200 million for peacekeeping operations.
It is part of our moral obligation to heed the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world and to do all in our power to extend compassion and solidarity to those in urgent need. We urge you to ensure that these critical funding requirements are included in the FY2005 supplemental legislation currently before you.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy