|JRS/USA Board of Directors and community members joined with parishioners of Holy Trinity Catholic Church and students from Gonzaga College High School to discuss refugee rights on Capitol Hill.|
|“Many of our government policies are harming the people who need assistance the most,” said JRS/USA Director of Advocacy & Operations, Giulia McPherson. “Right now, we have tens of millions of people worldwide who’ve been forcibly displaced due to political conflict and war. Historically, U.S. funding has helped support their access to simple human needs. We hope to restore that.”|
With a staggering 65 million-plus people worldwide who’ve been displaced by war, persecution and natural disaster, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA joined forces with other supporters to advocate on Capitol Hill for refugee rights.
JRS/USA Board of Directors, parishioners of Holy Trinity Catholic Church and students from Gonzaga College High School were among advocates who met with members of Congress on April 6 to discuss U.S. government policies that are affecting refugees worldwide. Advocates addressed the harmful Executive Orders, increasing humanitarian aid in the FY17 and FY18 spending bills and passing a critical piece of legislation that would provide access to education for hundreds of millions of children worldwide.
“Many of our government policies are harming the people who need assistance the most,” said JRS/USA Director of Advocacy & Operations, Giulia McPherson. “Right now, we have tens of millions of people worldwide who’ve been forcibly displaced due to political conflict and war. Historically, U.S. funding has helped support their access to simple human needs. We hope to restore that.”
Advocates met with several members of Congress in addition to key members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House & Senate State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee.
Specifically, congressional leaders were asked to oppose the series of Executive Orders that create significant obstacles for refugees and immigrants both currently in the U.S. and those planning to arrive. On March 6, President Trump signed an Executive Order that bans the entry of travelers from six Muslim majority countries into the United States for 90 days, suspends the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, and slashes the number of planned refugee admissions by more than half.
JRS/USA believes this measure does little to bolster our national security since refugees are the most vetted of any people who enter the U.S. Refugees face an 18 to 24-month process period that involves multiple government agencies, security databases, background checks, biometric security checks as well as in-person interviews and interagency security reviews. Although this order was struck down by a U.S. District Court, the restraining orders currently in place are only temporary.
Advocates also called on congressional leaders to oppose the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget proposal to cut the U.S. State & Foreign Operations Budget by 31 percent. The Foreign Operations Budget provides several programs for refugees worldwide including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF and the World Food Program, that help to sustain millions of refugee lives every day. Lawmakers were asked to support current funding levels and oppose any reductions.
Finally, advocates called on Senate lawmakers to approve legislation that would grant children worldwide the access to a quality education. Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, or READ Act (H.R.601), passed through the House of Representatives in January and is awaiting the passage of a Senate companion bill to ensure its clearance through Congress.
Of the 6 million primary and secondary school-age refugees under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 3.7 million are not in school. Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children, given the challenges to accessing an education. Yet, during emergencies and in protracted crises, schools are essential for healing and health and provide opportunity and hope for the future.
“It was heartening to witness a cadre of refugee supporters come together and advocate for generous policies that reflect our great American traditions,” said new Executive Director David (Rob) Robinson. “I am hopeful our Congressional leaders will understand that building a better world for refugees helps us all.”
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