Thursday, June 2, 2011

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Part 4

Rep. Gary Peters Introduces Bill to Reform Domestic Refugee Program

Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) officially introduced his legislation, H.R. 1475, on April 12th, 2011 entitled the Domestic Refugee Resettlement Reform and Modernization Act of 2011.  Currently, recently arriving refugees receive limited cash and medical assistance as well as access to housing and job placement services.  These benefits are intended to help refugees achieve self-sufficiency through employment during the eight month period for which benefits are provided.  However, structural deficiencies within the domestic resettlement program have made it more difficult for refugees to achieve self-sufficiency.  The impact is not just on the refugees themselves but also on local communities that are welcoming refugees where social services and philanthropic resources are more strained.

It is important that each federal dollar is spent wisely and that every program seeks to operate more efficiently.  This bill would thus institute zero-cost reforms to better maximize refugee self-sufficiency.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Revise the state funding formula used by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) so that it accounts for future refugee arrivals and more accurately distributes funds to state resettlement offices.
  • Elevate the Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS, giving it broader authority and ability to make structural changes and direct resources effectively.  
  • Increase transparency within the Office of Refugee Resettlement and require greater analysis of program operations and barriers to refugee sufficiency.  

The bill currently has 27 co-sponsors (6 Republicans and 21 Democrats). You can keep up with the co-sponsor count at This bill will also be critical, especially given its bi-partisan co-sponsorship, in avoiding budget cuts, as it shows the ongoing, across-the-aisle support for the refugee program.

Contact your representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor this bill, and encourage others to do the same.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Ask your Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the bill!

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.