September 21, 2016 – Statement for the Record on “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2017 Refugee Resettlement Program”

Statement for the Record on

“Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2017 Refugee Resettlement Program”

Senate Judiciary Committee

Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest

September 21, 2016 

by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) appreciates the opportunity to submit its views regarding the Administration’s FY 2017 refugee resettlement program. This hearing comes just days after the Administration’s decision to increase the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to at least 110,000 in Fiscal Year 2017, as well as the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants and President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York City – two major global summits organized to address the global refugee crisis and garner global support for refugees. The hearing also coincides with Congressional efforts to finalize stopgap funding legislation for FY 2017.

As the world grapples with the largest, complex and most devastating refugee crisis since World War II, the United States must continue to assist, protect, and welcome refugees who come to our country after passing through rigorous and effective security screening processes. With more than 65 million people displaced in the world today, include 21 million refugees, resettlement remains a critical, life-saving option for a small number of the most vulnerable refugees. United States resettlement also demonstrates continued United States leadership in addressing the global humanitarian crisis.

LIRS is grateful that the Obama Administration has committed to increase the number of refugees the United States will accept to at least 110,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. This decision will both save lives and strengthen our nation. While LIRS is disappointed that the Administration did not embrace the call to resettle 200,000 refugees in the new fiscal year, the decision to markedly increase the number of refugees reflects our values as Americans and is shared by many in the faith community. The 25,000 increase from the current fiscal year means more refugees’ futures have been redirected from ones of pain and despair to ones of safety and hope. LIRS and our national network stand ready to welcome these families and their loved ones into communities in the United States.

“America has an important choice to make, and the opportunity to live out the values we hold dear,” LIRS president and CEO Linda Hartke said. “One of the best things we can do for our economy, for our national security, and to inspire the rest of the world to protect the vulnerable, is to welcome refugees with a glad heart.”

LIRS has a long and proud history of resettling those who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and freedom. LIRS is proud to be one of nine organizations that partners with the federal government, particularly the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to be a part of this solution. For over 75 years, LIRS has worked to welcome over 500,000 refugees to the United States on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In Fiscal Year 2016, LIRS and its refugee resettlement network partners have welcomed over 12,000 refugees, including more than 1,000 Syrian refugees, to their new communities and empowered them to build new lives.

As we know from our 75 years of experience welcoming refugees in the United States, once refugees are resettled here, they routinely become engaged and productive community members, contributing economically, socially, and spiritually to our communities. The support of welcoming communities, congregations, volunteers, employers, schools, foster families and others makes resettlement a successful public-private partnership. The federal government, particularly PRM and ORR, and state governments play a vital role.

Worryingly, resources available to refugee families and adults through ORR have remained stagnant for many years. To ensure that refugees resettled in the United States receive the help they need to locate housing, receive medical attention and employment assistance, among other services, and to promote self-sufficiency and long-term integration, this funding must be increased.

Private sector support from businesses, community groups, volunteers, and philanthropic organizations has always played a vital role in welcoming refugees in the United States. Still, federal resources are critical to ensure refugees receive essential services. ORR provides grants to state governments, public schools, and local resettlement agencies to provide job training, English instruction, and cash and medical assistance to help refugees integrate into their new communities. Moreover, ORR’s mandate has expanded over the years from serving resettled refugees to include asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa recipients who served alongside U.S. troops, Cuban and Haitian entrants, survivors of human trafficking and torture, and unaccompanied children. Because funding has not kept up with these changes in ORR’s mandate and diversifying client needs, ORR has strained to provide sufficient support and services to all populations under its mandate.

LIRS Recommendations

To address current resettlement needs facing refugees and to improve welcome for refugees in the United States, LIRS makes the following recommendations to Congress:

  • Ensure robust FY 2017 funding for the Department of State’s, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee resettlement to better protect and assist refugees overseas and those resettled to the United States. Specifically:
  • Provide funding appropriate for successful support and resettlement for at least 110,000 refugee admissions in FY 2017. The Administration has committed to resettling 110,000 refugees in 2017, in contrast to the 75,000 reflected in the FY 2016 budget. Current Congressional proposals for ORR’s funding would flat line funding at this which is insufficient. It is critical that this generous increase in refugee admissions is met with increased funds to ensure local communities have the resources they need to help refugees integrate and thrive.
  • Oppose any legislative attempts to undermine or halt existing U.S. efforts to expeditiously and safely resettle refugees. LIRS remains deeply committed to welcoming and serving all refugees who come to our country after passing through the U.S. government’s rigorous and effective security screening processes. Halting or undermining the U.S. refugee resettlement program would leave vulnerable refugees, including women and children fleeing ISIS, in extreme danger.

Our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and treat him or her with compassion, justice, and dignity. As people of faith, we implore you not to turn your backs on the suffering of vulnerable refugees who are fleeing the same violence from which we seek to protect ourselves. We can and must protect our safety and our country’s long and generous tradition of welcoming those fleeing horrific violence and persecution.

If you have any questions about this statement, please contact Joanne Kelsey, LIRS Acting Director for Advocacy at or 202.626.7939.