The president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) praised President Bush last month for his “commitment to refugee resettlement” but voiced concern about the level of funding for refugees in the administration’s 2005 budget.
LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr.’s comments are in a June 3 LIRS news release that quotes Bush in remarks he made two days earlier to participants in the first white House National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
“Our great nation receives tens of thousands of refugees, which is good,” Bush said, according to the release.
“President Bush has demonstratied his commitment to refugee resettlement in the United States,” Deffenbaugh says in the release. He goes on to explain that after cutbacks in refugee arrivals for security reasons in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Bush “upped the bar for arrivals at 70,000, even when only 40 percent of the goal was met for two years in a row. This year we expect 50,000 arrivals.
“We are grateful for the president’s compassion for refugees both here and abroad,” Deffenbaugh said, “but we are deeply concerned about the level of funding in the administration’s fiscal year 2005 budget.”
Deffenbaugh said the budget proposes a “$30 million cut in the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account from the 2004 level, which was a $21 million cut from the 2003 level.”
“Specifically,” Deffenbaugh continued, “we urge Congress and the White House to support $927 million for the MRA account to allow up to 90,000 refugee admissions and restore our overseas refugee assistance to historic levels.
“President Bush is right in saying that refugee resettlement saves lives,” Deffenbaugh concludes, “but without generous federal funding, the ability to protect and save lives will be diminished.”
Posted June 28, 2004