Urgent Action Alert: Stop Cuts to Refugee Services & Help Unaccompanied Children

September 22, 2014

Action Needed: Members of Congress need to hear that their constituents support a $1.83 billion increase for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in Fiscal Year 2014 to meet the needs of both unaccompanied children and refugees. This increase for ORR is part of the Administration's $3.7 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request for FY14 to respond to the crisis faced by unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. We urge Congress to increase funds for ORR promptly to stop devastating cuts to refugee services and prevent any future reprogramming or reductions of these critical services.

Background: In addition to serving resettled refugees, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipients, Cuban and Haitian entrants, and survivors of human trafficking and torture, ORR, which is within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing services to the growing number of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America and seeking safety in the United States. As the number of children arriving in 2014 has exceeded projections, ORR has addressed its budget shortfall by reprogramming $94 million from refugee services to serve these children. Refugee services are already underfunded, and these cuts are already having devastating consequences for refugees and the communities that welcome them.

The Obama Administration has requested that Congress enact a $3.7 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which includes $1.83 billion for ORR; $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement; $433 million for Customs and Border Protection; $300 for the State Department; and $64 million for the Department of Justice. We urge Congress to act quickly to approve the increased funding requested for ORR in FY14, and to make clear that funding for refugee services should not be programmed or reduced — not this year, and not in the future.

While we welcome the additional funds for ORR, we urge Congress to provide more funds in the supplemental to increase legal services for unaccompanied children in the United States and enhance programs to reduce violence in sending countries and create safer alternatives so that individuals, particularly children and families, are not forced to undertake dangerous journeys in the first place. We are also deeply concerned about language in the supplemental request that would discourage persecuted individuals in Central America from seeking asylum and protection, and that would expand the detention of children and families without addressing the unacceptable conditions of these facilities. Additionally, we oppose any proposals that would restrict these children's access to life-saving protection or return them to unsafe situations in which they could be further exploited.

Please take the following actions TODAY and spread the word about this urgent alert:

Call your Representative and both your Senators by going to http://bitly.com/stop-cuts, calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or finding their direct office lines on their websites at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. Tell them:

  • As your constituent in [city, state], I care about refugees, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable populations.
  • I urge you to support the $1.83 billion increase for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, requested in the President's Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request for Fiscal Year 2014.
  • These funds are critical to ensure that ORR can meet the needs of both unaccompanied children and refugees, and are needed as soon as possible. ORR is facing a shortfall in FY14 and important services that help refugees and the communities that welcome them will continue to be cut unless Congress increase ORR funding this year.
  • The U.S. must show leadership by protecting unaccompanied children while maintaining our commitment to refugee resettlement. Please see that ORR receives this additional $1.83 billion in FY14 and at least $3.167 billion in FY15.

Meet with your Representative and Senators and their local staff. A toolkit for meeting with your Members of Congress can be found at rcusa.org/wrd2014. Please be in touch with your advocacy staff, listed below, to strategize about meeting with your Members of Congress and their staff.

Write your Representative and Senators. Find their addresses on their websites at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. Send copies to your advocacy staff, who will deliver them to their D.C. offices while you deliver them to their local offices!

Spread the word through social media. Find your Representative and Senators' Twitter Handles at https://twitter.com/cspan/lists/members-of-congress and urge them to increase funds for ORR. Here are sample tweets:

  • .@[their twitter handle] Increase FY14 funding for ORR by $1.8bil so they can meet needs of unaccompanied children & #refugees #UACs
  • .@[their twitter handle] Please support $1.8bil ↑ for ORR to maintain integrity of US #refugee resettlement program & support unaccompanied children #UACs
  • .@[their twitter handle] @HHSgov ORR needs ↑ FY14 & FY15 funding to ensure unaccompanied children & #refugees receive services they need & deserve #UACs

More information on the supplemental request can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/08/fact-sheet-emergency-supplemental-request-address-increase-child-and-adu.