Thursday, July 17, 2008

The House Foreign Affairs Committee Approves a Bill to Help Iraqi Refugees

Yesterday, I watched as the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.R. 6328, a bill creating a White House coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in the Executive Office of the President. The creation of such a high level position could strengthen America's ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

The coordinator will:
  • Develop and implement U.S. policies, coordinate federal functions, and address the protection, resettlement, and assistance needs of Iraqi refugees and displaced persons
  • Monitor the development and implementation of assistance strategies to countries in the Middle East hosting Iraqi refugees
  • ensure that the President's budget requests to Congress are sufficient to meet the needs of such persons, including providing assistance for international efforts on behalf of such persons
  • Serve as principal liaison with the government of Iraq and the international community and organizations that are assisting such persons
  • Ensure that the U.S. government will encourage refugee returns only when conditions permit safe and voluntary returns
Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and cosponsor of the bill, stressed the need for action: "Communities have been overrun by violence from all sides, uprooting families and destroying livelihoods. We have a moral obligation to make every effort to help these people, especially those who have assisted our forces and personnel in Iraq and who fear they may never be able to go home.” The bill would be a very productive step in getting the White House to publicly recognize the crisis.

We commend Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) on his leadership, and the 10 cosponsors for supporting this important measure. It may be referred to another committee before reaching the floor of the House for a vote.

Photo Caption: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman of California listens as ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida makes an opening statement during recent markup hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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