Sign-on Letter for Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act

July 25, 2011

Dear Member of Congress,

As organizations committed to refugee protection, assistance and resettlement, we write to urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 2404, the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act (TVRA) of 2011. An important piece of legislation with a strong history of bipartisan support, the TVRA authorizes funding for torture treatment centers in the U.S. and internationally. It was introduced in the House this session by Representatives Christopher Smith (R-4th NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-3rdMA).

Refugees are forced to flee their homelands due to persecution on account of their race, religion, ethnicity, or political opinions. Given the multiple challenges posed by language barriers, cultural differences and an ailing economy, the task of resettling refugees in the United States can be a difficult one.

Helping refugees integrate into their new communities is all the more difficult when the refugees seeking resettlement are victims of torture. Torture is, sadly, still commonly practiced throughout the world – Amnesty International estimates that 98 counties still routinely practice torture. The refugees being admitted to the U.S. often are escaping mass human rights atrocities, conflicts or oppressive regimes e.g. from Darfur, Iraq, Burma, etc. Torture survivors frequently experience lingering effects of the torture they endured. Symptoms are often both physical and psychological, and can include chronic pain, scarring, disfigurement, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, startle responses, hyper-vigilance, fatigue, and depression. To help survivors overcome these symptoms and rebuild productive lives in their news communities, they need highly specialized care from torture rehabilitation treatment centers. Such care is essential because the ongoing lingering impacts from torture undermine the abilities and aspirations of even the most
determined refugees.

The TVRA directly responds to this need for care. First introduced over a decade ago, the TVRA provides key federal support for a small but essential number of torture treatment centers located in the U.S. and overseas. These centers provide holistic, highly-specialized medical care and mental health services to torture survivors, treatment costing much more than private financial support could provide, even considering generous pro bono donations of time and expertise. H.R. 2404 would extend currently existing TVRA authorizations through the Office of Refugee Resettlement for domestic treatment centers and through USAID for international treatment centers for an additional two years. We urge you to join this important legislation as a co-sponsor, and would be deeply appreciative of your support.

Sincerely,
Center for Victims of Torture
Chaldean Federation of America
The Episcopal Church
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Liberty in North Korea
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Refugees International
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Women’s Refugee Commission