April 1, 2013

CWS Supports Re-Introduction of The Refugee Protection Act

Church World Service expresses our support for the Senate and House reintroductions of The Refugee Protection Act.  CWS works to assist refugees and internally displaced persons through a broad range of programs – from conducting interviews with refugee candidates for U.S. resettlement throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to providing resettlement and integration services through a network of 37 denominations and 36 refugee resettlement offices across the United States.

CWS is grateful for the leadership of Senator Leady (D-VT) and Representative Lofgren (CA-19) in reintroducing this important legislation. The timing of this reintroduction is especially important given the current energy around immigration reform. CWS encourages all members of the Senate and House to co-sponsor S.645 and H.R.1365 respectively, and to support the inclusion of these provisions in a broader immigration reform bill.

Since the founding of this country, refugees fleeing persecution have found freedom and safety in the United States. The U.S. refugee program is a public / private partnership in which communities, schools, religious congregations and employers welcome refugees and help them integrate. In turn, refugees bring their innovative skills, diverse cultures and dedicated work ethic to their new communities, improving quality of life for all.

Thirty-three years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted The 1980 Refugee Act, landmark legislation that created the refugee resettlement program and instituted how the United States provides protection and a new life to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. This legislation embodied provisions that at the time were novel and created a program to meet the needs of refugees in the 1980s. Over the past three decades, we as a country have grown in our understanding of the protection and assistance needs of refugees. It is now time to renew our commitment to refugees by enacting legislation that reforms the program to meet the needs of modern-day refugees and the communities that welcome them.

Given the importance of this task, CWS fully supports The Refugee Protection Act, which would significantly improve the treatment of asylum seekers and the refugee program in a variety of ways. Specifically, the bill’s call for expedited family reunification, annual updates of the reception and placement grant, reforms to the so called “material support bar”, steps to modernize the system for allocating refugee resettlement funds to states and communities welcoming refugees, and increasing the efficiency of the visa process would strengthen the refugee program and improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers.

We applaud Senator Leahy and Representative Lofgren for re-introducing this legislation, and urge all members of the Senate and House to cosponsor it. With refugees, local resettlement communities, non-profit organizations, and the U.S. government working together, we can provide protection, foster integration and further the life-saving program that is the U.S. refugee resettlement program.