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Resettlement Orgs Ask Obama for 100% Increase in FY17 Refugee/Related Admissions
A group of 41 “non-governmental organizations” that assist refugees worldwide, including four directly involved in U.S. refugee resettlement, urged President Obama to commit to accepting 200,000 refugee and humanitarian admissions in fiscal year (FY) 2017 – a 100 percent increase over the projected FY17 level he established last year. While the president has the authority to establish the yearly refugee target, Congress must decide whether to provide funds to resettle that or an alternative number.
On September 19th the UN General Assembly will host a summit to address the record-level worldwide movement of refugees and migrants, with the aim of developing a coordinated approach. Then on September 20th President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at which governments will announce new commitments on refugee aid and resettlement. The 41 organizations wrote Obama to influence his policies going into these meetings.
The organizations urge Obama to:
o Offer more humanitarian funding at the U.N. summit;
o Accept 200,000 refugee and humanitarian admissions in FY17, including at least 140,000 through traditional refugee resettlement and 60,000 through expansions of family-based, employment, and student visas; and
o Bolster refugee self-reliance through access to jobs.
Four of the nine non-governmental agencies that settle refugees in states signed the letter – Church World Service, HIAS, International Rescue Committee and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. The 1980 Refugees Act, which authorizes the president to make a “determination” of refugee resettlement levels for the upcoming year, also established a massive federal program that pays private organizations to resettle each refugee. This eventually created a resettlement industry with large bureaucracies dependent on annual appropriations. Self-interest induces these organizations to push for ever higher refugee numbers, irrespective of whether that is in the public’s best interest.
President Obama set the refugee target at 85,000 for FY16, including 10,000 Syrian refugees, and projected a level of 100,000 for FY17. Media reports suggest Obama plans to dramatically increase his FY17 determination, but the number won’t likely be made public before the September 20 meeting.
Congress’ discussion of Obama’s FY16 target and, in particular, the disposition of Syrian and Iraqi refugees was sidelined as Members rushed to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running on October 1, 2015, the beginning of FY16. The CR maintained FY15 assistance spending levels through mid-December.
In early November 2015 leaders reached a deal on emergency funding for Syrian and Iraqi refugees but started over when ISIS-led attacks on November 13th killed 130 people in Paris and injured hundreds of others. Some Republicans advocated freezing refugee intake from terrorist-producing countries but the omnibus spending bill Congress passed in December excluded the freeze and ended up provided $605 million more than the President’s request for Migration and Refugee Assistance
When Congress returns from summer recess next week, Members will again rush to keep the government running before FY17 begins. And since the likely vehicle is another CR, congressional debate over the president’s FY17 refugee numbers will have to wait until Member take up a longer term spending bill after the election.