September 21, 2012 STATEMENT — LIRS Welcomes Introduction of the Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act

Press Contact: Jon Pattee, LIRS Assistant Director for Media Relations
202-591-5778, jpattee@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, September 19, 2012—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people, welcomes Representative Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) introduction of H.R. 6460, the Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act. The bill contains a number of key reforms to support the long-term integration of refugees and other vulnerable migrants who find safety and a new home in the United States.

In partnership with the federal government and state entities, in fiscal year 2011, LIRS and our national network resettled nearly 7,000 refugees to communities across the country.

“Since 1939, LIRS has worked to welcome and resettle refugees into American communities,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “We applaud Rep. Ellison’s Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act, which builds on an amazing legacy of generations of refugees and immigrants who have been welcomed to our shores. We look forward to working with our supporters and Congress to advance this important legislation that will make our nation stronger and more vibrant.”

In a 2009 report, The Real Cost of Welcome: A Financial Analysis of Local Refugee Reception, LIRS drew attention to the need for increasing the per capita Reception and Placement grant provided to each refugee to assist with their initial arrival to the United States. In January 2010, the government announced it would double this grant. While this is welcome, the Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act would ensure that refugees’ initial needs are met by requiring the grant to keep pace with cost of living and inflation increases.

The bill would also provide for extended case management for highly vulnerable refugees. As the United States continues to prioritize and welcome greater numbers of refugees with special needs such as single-women-headed households, victims of torture, victims of trauma, or those with severe medical and mental health needs, a specialized, extended case management assistance program is needed to ensure refugees’ successful integration into American communities. While many refugees may only need assistance connecting with basic services and navigating unfamiliar systems within their new country, others may require a longer amount of attention and assistance.

“Case management is critical to ensuring refugees have a smooth transition to life in the United States,” said Ali Aden, a former refugee from Somalia who now works as a case manager helping other refugees at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.  “By being able to access longer-term assistance, vulnerable refugees would receive the support they need to fully rebuild their lives in the United States.

The Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act also includes protections for vulnerable migrant children who have been victims of serious crimes. Since 1975, LIRS has partnered with federal and state governments, churches, and community partners to place over 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children with licensed and trained foster families. LIRS recognizes the significant challenges that migrant and refugee children face, particularly when they are separated from their parents and family. The bill allows certain children who are granted a “U” visa to access a specialized federal foster care program called the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program. Instead of releasing vulnerable children who have no one to care for them onto the streets, the bill allows a small number of children to access this federal foster care program every year. The program is tailored to meet the specific needs of unaccompanied refugee children, Special Immigrant Juveniles, child victims of human trafficking, and children granted asylum.

LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

For more information, please visit lirs.org.

If you have any questions about this statement, please feel free to contact Nora Skelly, Acting Director for Advocacy at (202) 626-7934 or via email at nskelly@lirs.org.