To Integrate, Refugees Need Congress’ Support
The Obama administration’s proposed increase in refugee admissions for fiscal year 2017 is a positive step, but ensuring refugees’ full integration requires adequate funding.
The proposal put the ball in Congress’ court even as attention turns to next week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting and White House summit on refugees. Ahead of that meeting, the Obama administration announced Wednesday that the U.S. would seek to receive 110,000 refugees for the upcoming fiscal year, a nearly 30 percent increase from this year.
A crucial — and successful — component of the U.S. refugee program is the support refugees receive as they integrate into American society. One essential source of that support is funding from Congress, which should act to continue to ensure refugees’ smooth transition.
Congress continues to be unable to come to consensus on appropriations bills to fund the government. When funding the government through continuing resolutions, Congress has held funding steady without increases in spending for refugee resettlement.
Without additional funding, a 30 percent increase in the number of refugees accepted to the U.S. results in a decrease in funds to spend per resettled refugee. This means that cash and medical assistance for new arrivals could be reduced — either the amount for each refugee, or each refugee may receive shorter than the current eight months of assistance — as could support for case management services, English as a Foreign Language classes, and job readiness and employment services.
Private businesses also have the opportunity to boost their participation in resettlement efforts. Some have been involved for decades through public-private partnerships.
“We appreciate the attention and support the administration is giving refugees in a moment when their worldwide numbers are unprecedented,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “Congress should leave no doubt about our commitment to helping refugees integrate. It should be no weaker than our commitment to the thorough screening process refugees undergo before they arrive.”
“The question at hand is whether refugees will continue to have the support they need in order to contribute to our country to their fullest potential.”
National Immigration Forum
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