Wednesday, July 02, 2008

U.S. Admits 1,721 Iraqi Refugees in June; Still Shy of 2008 Goal

Conflict in Iraq has forced more than 2 million Iraqis to flee their nation and over 2 million more to be displaced with Iraq. Unfortunately, the response from the U.S. government has been woefully inadequate.

The U.S. plans to allow 12,000 Iraqi refugees into the country during the 2008 Fiscal Year. The Associated Press reports that the administration admitted 1,721 Iraqi refugees in June, which is an increase from the 1,141 admitted in May. In addition to the goal of resettling 12,000 refugees, the administration is supposed to grant 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas. Normally, for a refugee to be resettled in the U.S., the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) must refer him for resettlement to the U.S. State Department before his application is processed. SIVs bypass the UN referral process because SIVs are designed for those Iraqi's who face immanent danger because of their ties to the United States coalition, including Iraqis who worked as translators and interpreters, or those with pressing medical needs.

Last year, Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Smith (R-OR) co-sponsored the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, which established the Special Immigrant Visa program. The intent of the Kennedy-Smith bill is to ensure that 5,000 Iraqis are resettled in the U.S. through the SIV program annually. According to the act, the 5,000 resettled with SIVs is in addition to the goal of 12,000 admittance set by the Bush administration. We must ensure that the administration follows the intent of the Kennedy-Smith bill, rather than including the 5,000 SIV admittance as part of the 12,000 refugee quota.

The crisis is ongoing but thanks to support from fine folks like you, we are making hard fought gains in the right direction.

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