TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to Fund Refugee & Newcomer Inclusion and Restore Needed Services for Ukrainian and Afghan Neighbors

November 13, 2023

On November 15, Congress passed a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded, for certain federal agencies through January 19, 2024 and others through February 2, 2024, as negotiations continue over an emergency supplemental funding package and full-year FY 2024 appropriations. Although we are encouraged that the November 15th CR did not entrench further anti-asylum, anti-border provisions, the legislation excluded a critical extension of eligibility for needed services for certain Ukrainians and Afghans arriving under humanitarian parole and it represents a dramatic funding cut for vital refugee-related accounts.

In the coming weeks, Congress is expected to continue to negotiate a supplemental funding bill that could involve support for Ukraine, Israel, Gaza-related global humanitarian relief, border funding and policies, and certain domestic human needs issues. At the same time, several members of Congress in both the House and Senate are still attempting to shoehorn anti-immigrant, anti-asylum border provisions into ongoing conversations and to link support for Ukraine to harmful asylum policy restrictions. 

Simultaneously, Congress will swiftly undertake negotiations to write spending bills that fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, following the January 19th and February 2nd deadlines. These are multiple important opportunities to influence our U.S. Senators and Representatives to prioritize investments in our communities this fiscal year.

While we face the worst displacement crisis in history with an unprecedented 110+ million displaced, including more than 37 million refugees, refugee-related resources are running dangerously low, and most newly arriving Ukrainians and Afghans have been cut off from support and benefits like Medicaid, TANF, and SNAP that help provide food, health, and economic security for low-income communities. Community investments in our capacity to welcome refugees assist new arrivals in gaining self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging in their new homes, while bolstering the network of competent providers who devote their time and expertise to bringing communities together and serving our refugee neighbors.

Congress must do everything in its power to ensure the U.S. resettlement program is sustainable, nimble, efficient, and resilient – and not vulnerable to sudden shocks. Join us in calling on Congress to provide essential benefits to arriving Ukrainians and Afghans, robustly fund services to welcome refugees, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers, and reduce reliance on immigrant detention, deportations, and border militarization.

On the right-hand side, you can send an email to your Members of Congress.

Sample Script/Email:

“My name is [insert name], and as your constituent from [City/Town] and a [person of faith/refugee/member of my community], I urge you to support investments in refugee & newcomer inclusion and our community’s capacity to welcome in ongoing funding conversations. The November Continuing Resolution neglected to address the dire funding situation facing key refugee accounts and failed to extend needed benefits to arriving Ukrainians and Afghans – it represents a failure of support, not an extension of the status quo. 

As Congress negotiates a supplemental spending package, I urge you to support the refugee-related accounts described below and to reject the inclusion of any harmful, anti-asylum, anti-immigrant provisions. In supplemental legislation, I urge you to: 

  • Include retroactive authorization language that lives up to our promises to those fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan. I urge you to support language included in the supplemental request that extends access to certain Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) benefits for Ukrainians arriving after September 30th via humanitarian parole, including those entering through the Uniting for Ukraine program. I further urge you to retroactively authorize Afghan humanitarian parolees who arrive after September 30th to be eligible for full refugee resettlement benefits.
  • Replenish funding for international assistance to refugees around the world and support the refugee admissions program. I urge you to support $4.345 billion for the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) Account and $5.655 billion for the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) Account, as was included in the White House’s October 20 supplemental request. Concerning international assistance, I further urge you to support $100 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) Account. 
  • Support investment in the long-term integration and economic success of newcomers. The Office of Refugee Resettlement will face dramatic year-to-year cuts under the CR and will be forced into historic cuts to programming without additional support. I urge you to bolster funds for the Refugee and Entrant Assistance (REA) account, which supports ORR, including by supporting the $2.334 billion in REA funding in the administration’s supplemental request. I further urge you to support housing assistance for all vulnerable populations served by ORR, including by creating a newcomer housing voucher and by authorizing ORR-eligible populations to receive housing support.
  • Reject additional funding for immigrant detention, deportations, and border militarization, instead investing in community wholeness and bolstering local community’s efforts to welcome arriving asylum seekers. Concerning DHS accounts, I urge you to reject additional funds for CBP and ICE enforcement and border militarization efforts – and instead to support the $755 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to tackle processing backlogs for benefits and status, as well as significant additional investment in the Shelter and Services Program to build capacity at shelters and respite centers.
  • Strengthen protections for unaccompanied children and their families. I urge you to support robust funding for legal, mental health care, and post-release services for unaccompanied children as well as home- or small-scale placements, access to Child Advocates, and ensuring family unity. Congress should further incorporate the supplemental request of $100 million for child labor prevention by the Department of Labor to enforce child labor laws and prevent dangerous and exploitative labor arrangements.
  • Expand newcomer access to safe, affordable, sustainable housing. I urge you to support housing assistance for all vulnerable populations served by ORR, including by authorizing all ORR-eligible populations to receive housing support, as well as funding a full-time employee dedicated to refugee and newcomer issues within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and establishing HUD-administered refugee and newcomer housing voucher.

As Congress simultaneously writes spending bills that fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, following the January 19th and February 2nd deadlines, I urge you to provide robust funds for accounts under the LHHS, SFOPS, and DHS subcommittees, as well as important oversight language. Welcoming newcomers is part of what makes this country and our community strong. Thank you.”

AMPLIFY ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Share this message with national leaders on social media! See below for sample social media posts, and see here for sample graphics.

  • @legislator it’s a fact: Refugees make our communities strong. It is critical for Congress to invest in welcoming programs that allow newcomers to integrate and thrive. #RefugeesWelcome
  • @legislator Three ways you can invest in our capacity to welcome:
    – Support overseas refugee assistance accounts
    – Support funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement
    – Invest in USCIS staffing to address processing backlogs
  • @legislator The billions of dollars Congress gives to ICE and CBP enforcement should instead be directed towards programs that welcome the newcomer and accompany the vulnerable!

Additional Resources: