Urgent: Raise Your Voice for Refugees and Unaccompanied Children!

Poverty_Girl_artLutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and Lutheran Services of Georgia are calling for supporters of refugees and unaccompanied children to join us in raising our voices to advocate for these vulnerable populations.

The Situation:  Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are fleeing ongoing violence in the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras and seeking shelter in the United States. These children have been forced to endure conditions that lack compassion and dignity, including sleeping on floors in Border Patrol stations. The numbers are growing drastically–in Fiscal Year 2014, over 60,000 additional children are expected to cross into the U.S. On July 20, 2014, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced that they were planning to “reprogram” 94 million dollars from refugee resettlement to respond to this crisis.

The Problem: Refugee programs are already underfunded. Taking funding from refugee resettlement would hollow out existing services, including access to medical and employment assistance for already resettled refugees and those who have yet to arrive. Refugees will not receive the help they need and have been promised to adjust to life in their new communities. The United States cannot help one vulnerable population by hurting another.

The Response: LIRS is calling on Congress and the Obama Administration to allocate $200 million in emergency supplemental funds for the ORR during the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. This will allow ORR to both reinstate critical programs for refugees and care for unaccompanied children.

How You Can Help:  Join LIRS and LSG in raising your voice! Congress is in recess from June 30 to July 7, so your emails and phone calls are needed right now. Don’t know what to say? That’s alright – LIRS has provided a sample script for a phone call and an email template.

To call, dial (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your two Senators and your Representative. Here is a sample script you can use to tailor your personal message, describing your own work or relationships with refugees, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable migrants.

Hi, my name is [NAME], from [City, State] May I please speak with the staff person who handles appropriations issues?

I am calling to urge the [SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE] to support increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement by $200 million in FY 2014 so they can meet the needs of both unaccompanied children and refugees. A lack of additional funding would compromise America’s ability to provide persecuted refugees and vulnerable unaccompanied children with safe haven and a chance at a new life. Funding for this program is an investment in the safety and self-sufficiency of people we welcome to American communities. Please ensure that Congress appropriates supplemental funding at least in $200 million in FY 14 and at least $3.3 billion in funding for HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement for FY 2015.

If you’d prefer to send an email, click here for an easy-to-use email template that will go straight to your Congressmen’s offices.

Spread the Word: You can also spread awareness about this issue by sharing this information via email and social media. One way to spread the word is to tweet at your Senators or Representative.  Find their Twitter Handles athttps://twitter.com/cspan/lists/members-of-congress and urge them to increase their funds for ORR. Try tweeting:

  • @[their twitter handle] Increase funding for ORR by $200mil to meet needs of unaccompanied children & #refugees #UACs
  • @[their twitter handle] Please support $200mil for ORR to maintain US #refugee resettlement program & support unaccomp children #UACs
  • @[their twitter handle] @HHSgov ORR needs funding to ensure unaccompanied children & #refugees receive services they need & deserve #UACs

Thanks for joining us in ensuring that both refugees and unaccompanied children receive the care and support that they need to thrive!