IRC Directors Urge President Bush To Break Logjam in U.S. Refugee Admissions
Members of the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee have urged President Bush to step in and break the logjam that has dramatically slowed the admission of refugees into the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
More than 20,000 refugees previously approved for admission to the United States have been languishing in camps in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. And although admissions have increased somewhat over 2002, they are still lagging far behind historic levels. During the first eight months of the federal government's current fiscal year, which began last Oct. 1, some 14,300 refugees were resettled in the United States, a total that is only about a third of the average for the same period in earlier years.
"The problem is that insufficient resources are being devoted to the newly mandated security screening of refugees," the IRC's directors said in a letter to the president. "They are being treated as just another category of immigrants, even though they deserve priority status because of who they are: victims of war, oppression or persecution, whether in Cuba, Iraq, Sudan or elsewhere."
The IRC board members asked the president to direct the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the State Department to coordinate their efforts, give priority to refugee admissions and devote adequate resources to that goal.
The letter concluded, "Refugees have made enormous contributions to the United States. Our country will benefit greatly if you can ensure that our nation continues to have a robust Refugee Admissions Program."
The IRC, founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, is one of the nation's leading private nonsectarian agencies providing services to refugees in the United States and around the world. Its board includes prominent business executives, former ambassadors and cabinet members, union leaders and philanthropists.
Click here for the full text of the letter and a list of signers.