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Feb 13, 2019

Update--Help Families Fleeing Crisis Rebuild

For his annual State of the Union address, President Trump chose the theme "American Greatness," but he failed to highlight what truly makes America great: our legacy of supporting people affected by violence and persecution here and around the world. Instead, President Trump distorted the record on people seeking asylum at the border. Notably absent from the President’s remarks were the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the historic scale of forced displacement globally.

Let’s set the record straight.

Correcting the Record: The U.S. Southern Border

It comes as no surprise that the President used his State of the Union speech to demand funding for the border wall under the guise of a manufactured ‘crisis’. In reality, the number of irregular border crossings, as reflected in Customs and Border Patrol’s arrest statistics, are the lowest they’ve been in decades. The real crisis is the instability in Central America which is forcing people to flee for their lives, coupled with the administration’s systematic attacks on these same vulnerable individuals. Rather than offering safe haven, the U.S. administration continues to erode safe pathways by blocking people from claiming asylum, separating families as part of its ‘zero tolerance’ effort, and forcibly returning asylum seekers to Mexico as part of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

Seeking asylum is legal. Turning asylum seekers away is not. The “Remain in Mexico” policy robs asylum seekers of their due process rights, including access to legal counsel, and will expose thousands of families and children to unsafe conditions. Therefore, the IRC calls on the U.S. Administration to rescind this cruel and irresponsible policy, follow domestic and international law, and uphold America’s humanitarian commitments.

A True Legacy of Greatness: Welcoming Refugees in the U.S

Finally, President Trump neglected to address the historic global refugee crisis. Right now, over 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced from their homes, including over 25 million refugees who have fled their countries in search of safety. These numbers are the highest since World War II. Although he invoked the memory of the horrors of the Holocaust, the president failed to acknowledge the countless lives that could have been saved had Jewish refugees not been turned away by the United States. The president overlooked how his administration’s own refugee policies are harming Iraqis and Afghans who have fought alongside American troops.

America’s legacy of greatness as a safe haven for refugees is in jeopardy. In September 2018, the administration set the lowest refugee admissions since the resettlement program was established. To make matters worse, based on the current pace of refugee admissions, it is unlikely that even this extremely low ceiling will be met. This simply is not enough. The United States must never abandon its proud legacy of offering stability to people fleeing war and oppression. 

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Dec 18, 2018

The Global Compact on Refugees is a positive step toward a better refugee response

With the UN General Assembly vote in New York, an overwhelming majority of UN Member States affirmed a pact of international solidarity and cooperation for refugee protection and host community development.

Starting in 2019, significant progress can be achieved if States take immediate action to deliver on the promised changes to improve conditions for people fleeing war, persecution and environmental degradation, and address the concerns of the communities hosting them.

As key partners in achieving the objectives laid out in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) we see five key areas: equitable responsibility-sharing; holding ourselves and States accountable to progress; enhancing the leadership of affected communities in designing the response; strengthening protection and coping strategies for people of concern; and delivering real solutions to end their displacement. By focusing on the following five areas we can collectively achieve the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees.

Progress towards equitable responsibility-sharing is key. Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, calls for States to prepare concrete pledges at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum: “The responsibility for hosting refugees is now primarily shouldered by a few low- and middle-income countries close to war zones. The most affluent nations are neither receiving refugees nor supporting host nations in any significant way. We need real responsibility sharing from all rich nations, so that refugee crises can be managed. All countries must do their share,” says Egeland.

Accountability is necessary for a non-binding document and 2019 must be the year where ambitious benchmarks for the success of the Compact are defined: “It is shocking that we still have no systematic way to assess progress on refugee outcomes nor the billions provided to assist them. Three years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we know refugees are being left behind” says David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee. “Accountability and commitment to what works must be at the center of the Compact’s implementation. The establishment of the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Centre is a good first step, but it is critical that we agree clear metrics on outcomes and gather better data to drive real improvements in the lives of refugees and their hosts.”

Also, we expect to see real changes in the lives of refugees and hosting communities. We need to work collectively to realise the potential of the Compact to deliver better refugee protection in practice. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer for Save the Children International says: “This historic agreement offers us the chance to make a real difference to the lives of refugees. Refugee children make up half of all refugees, and they are always the most vulnerable. We hope this Compact will help protect these children and give them the future they have the right to. What refugee children tell us they want most of all is an education. So we are delighted that the Compact pledges that all refugee children will be in school and learning within a few months of crossing an international border and that funding should be provided to enable this, particularly support for host countries. There is no time to waste to make this promise a reality for refugee children.”

While we are disappointed that the US and Hungary have chosen not to affirm the Global Compact on Refugees, we remain optimistic and open to continued dialogue with them as the agreement is implemented.

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Dec 18, 2018

Update--Help Refugees at Risk in the U.S.

On October 10, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a policy change that would make it much more difficult for immigrants building new lives in the United States to access health care, find housing, or feed their families.

Under current immigration law, an individual can be denied entry or a change of immigration status—such as obtaining permanent residency—if they are considered a “public charge.” The Trump Administration’s proposal will drastically expand this definition to include critical safety net programs that immigrant families need to survive. 

These changes directly attack the thousands of immigrant families the International Rescue Committee serves. And they hurt American communities, which have always been strengthened by the contributions of newcomers.

However, our community not taking this attack lying down: 210,889 comments were submitted to the Federal Register after the new rule was proposed. The Administration will now have to examine these comments as they consider whether or not to proceed with this devastating new policy. We must continue to stand with thousands of immigrant families who would be affected by this disastrous proposal.

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