URGENT ACTION: Tell Congress to Invest in Local Communities’ Capacity to Welcome Refugees

February 16, 2024

In February, as Congress faces the specter of another government shutdown in early March, it continues to negotiate vital funding legislation that could have immense ramifications for refugees, asylum seekers, and all those seeking safety.

On February 13, after rejecting an emergency supplemental funding package that included significant anti-asylum, anti-immigrant border provisions, the Senate passed the National Security Act, 2024, a pared-down version of the initial bill that excluded most of the harmful provisions. This smaller bill (which focuses on foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan) still includes some needed support for newcomers, including crucial additional funding for key refugee accounts and the reauthorization of benefits eligibility for arriving Ukrainian humanitarian parolees.

The National Security Act is not yet law. It is waiting for House consideration, Speaker Mike Johnson has vowed to refuse to bring the legislation up for a vote absent harmful, extreme changes to border and asylum policy. On February 16, a group of House lawmakers announced a so-called “compromise” that would institute harsh and immoral asylum restrictions – like mandating Title 42 expulsions and resuming Remain in Mexico – at the border and strip all of the humanitarian aid from the supplemental (including refugee account funding and benefits for Ukrainian parolees). 

Meanwhile the federal government is set to run out of funding entirely in early March. To avert an imminent shutdown, Congress must pass additional, full-year spending legislation (beyond the supplemental). This turn toward full-year funding represents a crucial opportunity to advocate for meaningful investments in programs and services that expand U.S. capacity to successfully welcome newcomers.

Join us in calling on Congress to live up to our nation’s legacy of welcome by robustly funding key refugee accounts, restoring access to needed benefits for arriving Ukrainians and Afghans, and rejecting efforts to dismantle access to asylum protections at the border.

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 call upon you to support provisions in upcoming spending measures that live up to our legacy as a nation of welcome. Specifically, I encourage you to make meaningful investments in our refugee resettlement infrastructure in upcoming full-year appropriations measures. I also urge you to support robust funding for key refugee accounts in any supplemental legislation under consideration. Any funding legislation should include the restoration of benefits eligibility for arriving Afghans and Ukrainians in supplemental funding legislation, while rejecting any proposed provisions that would limit protections for asylum seekers.

To support the long-term integration and economic success and integration of newcomers:

  • Robustly fund the Refugee and Entrant Assistance Account (REA), which supports the Office of Refugee Resettlement by funding core services such as job training, English language classes, services for unaccompanied children, and refugee school impact grants. I encourage you to replenish the REA account with $2.334 billion in an emergency supplemental (as requested by the Biden administration) or $11.1885 billion in full-year funding legislation. The Senate-passed National Security Act includes $481 million for REA, far below the administration’s request to replenish the account. 
  • Robustly fund the Migration and Refugee Assistance Account (MRA), which protects families fleeing life-threatening situations and funds durable solutions to protect refugees, including resettlement through USRAP. I urge you to support $4.345 billion for MRA in a supplemental (the National Security Act includes $3.495 billion) and $5.2 billion in a full–year spending bill. 
  • Uphold our promises to arriving Ukrainian humanitarian parolees by extending access to certain Office of Refugee Resettlement and mainstream benefits to those who arrived after September 30th and have been suddenly cut off. 
  • Support Afghans fleeing the Taliban by passing Afghan adjustment legislation and extending access to benefits for arriving Afghan parolees who have also been cut off in Fiscal Year 2024. 
  • Fund a designated, appointed HUD employee who can serve as a liaison/ombudsman and be focused on refugee and newcomer coordination to expand the current structure of the MOU between HUD and ORR that acknowledges the acute challenges refugees face with the current housing market.
  • For full funding recommendations, see: bit.ly/RCUSAFY24FundingNeeds.

To expand access to humanitarian protections and meaningfully address challenges at the border:

  • Improve and robustly fund the Shelter and Services Program (SSP), which supports recently-arrived asylum seekers and the communities working to welcome them. 
  • Support and expand the Case Management Pilot Program, which provides asylum seekers around the country with sustained, trauma-informed, community-based case management, including mental health care and legal orientation programming.
  • Support legislation to remove barriers to work authorization. The House Asylum Seeker Work Authorization Act (H.R. 1325) reduces the 180 day wait for eligibility to 30 days and makes it easier to renew and retain employment authorization documents (EADs).

Upholding our nation’s historic role as a source of refuge for people forced to flee persecution is as important today as it has ever been. I call upon you to forcefully reject efforts to dismantle access to protection for those at risk and instead invest in welcoming policies so that newcomers and the communities that welcome them can thrive and flourish together. Thank you.”

Share this message with national leaders on social media! See below for sample social media posts. See here for sample graphics.

  • @legislator: Now is the time to invest in our nation’s legacy of protecting the persecuted. Your constituents are calling upon you to invest in our capacity to welcome.
  • .@legislator: When we grow our capacity to welcome, our communities grow stronger.
  • .@legislator: I’m proud that my community welcomes refugees and immigrants. It’s up to you to ensure that our nation’s welcoming infrastructure remains strong and resilient.

Additional Resources

Funding Priorities

Border Solutions