In last week's guest blog, Ken Bacon of Refugees International wrote that the U.S. resettled 63 Iraqi refugees in June. Although this is a huge accomplishment (a 6,300% increase!!), Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) Ellen Sauerbrey's continued false claims about our commitment to Iraqi refugees make it too soon to cheer our moral victory.
Sauerbrey stated back in February that the U.S. would be able to resettle 7,000 Iraqis in the 2007 fiscal year. Then PRM backtracked and said they would at least get that many referrals from the UN (which they did –- ahead of schedule). Now they’re claiming they might get 2,000 Iraqis resettled in the U.S. by year’s end.
Then, on July 5th, Sauerbrey wrote a letter to the editor at the Washington Post, claiming “the United States has funded 30 percent of the appeal from the [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] for $60 million to help Iraqis.” But this, too, is false. According to Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch, the U.S. has only funded $12 million, not $18 million.
So our administration has been scaling down its quota for Iraqi refugees and backtracking on its promises. Their excuse was that the Department of Homeland Security had not created its special screening process for Iraq refugees. That process was created at the end of May, and my guess is that the latest 63 Iraqis to resettle here are a result of DHS' progress. UNHCR already reached its quota of 7,000 referrals for resettlement. Even if DHS can resettle 63 in just one month, immediately after creating its screening process, we should only expect to bring in another 189 Iraqi refugees by the end of this fiscal year, far short of 2,000.
This is pathetic and unacceptable. It's our moral responsibility to help Iraqis who have been displaced as a result of this war, especially those who have sided with the U.S. in the reconstruction of Iraq. With your help, we will keep the pressure on the administration to live up to its claims and to our collective responsibility.