The Senate’s recent decision to fund the government through a continuing resolution instead of an omnibus appropriations bill will have major implications for refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, reports the Huffington Post.
The President’s proposed budget for FY 2011 had included an 18.5% increase in funding for refugee programs, an increase that is desperately needed. However, the continuing resolution keeps funding at FY 2010 levels. This means that refugee resettlement agencies do not have the resources to do their jobs, and that refugees are unable to meet short term needs–such as grocery bills and rent, and long term needs–such as moving towards self sufficiency.
There is some bipartisan support for increasing funding for resettlement. The Huffington Post reports:
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a report in July stating that funding for refugee programs is too low, and that that, in turn, puts strain on local communities stepping in to fill the void. Lugar argued the government should either accept fewer refugees, or give more funding to programs designed to help those that are allowed into the country.
In tough economic times, there is a temptation to reduce the number of refugees we admit into the United States (the admissions ceiling for FY 2011 is 80,000 refugees, which is similar to previous years). However, if the U.S. reduces its refugee numbers, other countries will likely follow suit. This means that thousands of refugees will be left to linger, and sometimes die, in refugee camps. The U.S. has been–and should continue to be–the leader in assisting refugees. Further, we bear a particular responsibility since many of the refugees come from Iraq and Afghanistan, collateral damage from our efforts to fight terrorism and extremism.
Protecting and resettling refugees helps the United States maintain its moral leadership in the world. As they say, the U.S. is great when it is good. We should fully fund our refugee resettlement programs to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community get the assistance they need.