Funding Bill Maintains U.S. Support for Refugees, Wartime Allies
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today said that the compromise fiscal year 2017 funding bill put forth by Congress yesterday contains several provisions that would maintain American support for refugees. The bill, which adds additional protection for wartime allies in Afghanistan and increases oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), comes while the Trump Administration attempts to circumvent U.S. treaty requirements regarding asylum seekers and ban vulnerable refugees from the United States.
“By passing a spending bill that includes increased protection for asylum seekers and refugees, Congress is sending a powerful message to the administration that it is in our national interest to support refugees,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “We now call on the administration to join with Congress and stop its full-scale assault on the most vulnerable seeking protection in the United States.”
Included in yesterday’s funding bill were an additional 2,500 Special Immigration Visas (SIV) for Afghan wartime allies. Human Rights First, along with its Veterans for American Ideals project, has long-advocated for Congress to take immediate action to protect Afghan allies in danger because of their service in support of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The Afghan SIV program, started in 2009, was designed to provide 7,500 visas over five years. Extensions for the program have been passed three times, but there are still more than ten thousand applications pending.
Additionally, the funding measure increases oversight and accountability to ensure that ICE complies with all applicable immigration laws, increased oversight of immigration detention facilities and management, and a 60 percent increase in funding for alternatives to detention. The measure also provides for ten additional immigration judge teams, a small step towards eliminating the immigration court backlog, as documented by Human Rights First.
Critically, the funding bill maintains last year’s funding levels for refugee programs, despite attempts by the Trump Administration to roll back the program. The United States’ refugee vetting procedures are widely recognized as the most stringent in the world by former U.S. military leaders and former U.S. national security officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations. Former CIA directors, national security advisors, and secretaries of defense, state, and homeland security have explained that resettling refugees advances U.S. national security interests, and that halting refugee resettlement harms U.S. national security.
“What we see in this funding bill is Congress’s signal to the administration that support of refugees and human rights is core to our American ideals, and that the legislature will stand up to the Trump Administration’s efforts to abdicate leadership on the issue,” said Quigley. “But we can’t forget that this bill is merely a stop-gap measure. Congress must now turn it’s attention to next year’s funding bill, where there will be significant obstacles for increasing refugee funding for a resistant President Trump.”