Since 1917, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) has aided the most vulnerable among us and since World War II, it has resettled thousands of displaced persons and refugees fleeing war and persecution. Current U.S. policy about refugee resettlement continues to change, complicating resettlement efforts and limiting refugee arrivals.
For fiscal year 2019 the Trump Administration has set a nationwide ceiling of 30,000, a drop from the FY 2018 total of 45,000. This is the lowest number established in the program’s 39-year history. So far, the government is on pace to resettle 23,000 refugees this year, well below the authorized number. To put these numbers in perspective, since the program’s inception, the United States has set an average annual admissions goal of 95,000 and has resettled as many as 200,000 people in certain years
Every donor, congregation, community partner, staff member, and volunteer plays an integral role in restoring hope for the refugees we serve. Please stay informed and share the facts with others. Together, we will continue to welcome and embrace our neighbors. By doing so, we live our faith and demonstrate the love and compassion that has defined our call to service and our organization for 100 years.
Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program
In its FY 2019 budget the Trump Administration requested funding for 4,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghans who assisted United States troops as translators, interpreters and other workers during the war. Under H.J. Res 31, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019, Congress included $5 million to fund the 4,000 Afghan SIVs, an LSSNCA advocacy priority. The president signed that bill in to law on February 15, 2019. The bill also included language directing the State department to implement a system of prioritization for processing Afghan SIVs based on the threats they receive, and after reviewing the facts of each case, giving appropriate consideration to those applicants who during their qualifying service, assisted in combat operations.
On March 15, 2019, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), joined by 30 of their colleagues, sent a letter to the heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security and the FBI, expressing concern over the delay in processing of Iraqi and Afghani wartime visas. The letter notes that under the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, 1,649 visas were issued in FY 2018, a 60% decrease from 2017.
On May 16, 2019 companion legislation, S. 1474 and H.R.2796, was introduced in the House and Senate to authorize an additional 4,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visas for fiscal year 2020. Known as the “Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2019,” S.1474 was introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) along with 6 original co-sponsors (Sens. Tillis [R-NC], Wicker [R-MS], Gardner [R-CO], Reed [D-RI], Kaine [D-VA], and Blumenthal [D-CT]. The House version, H.R.2796 was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and 29 original co-sponsors (including Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The overall congressional strategy is to add the bill as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operation bill as it makes its way through the legislative process. This same strategy proved successful in Fiscal Year 2019.
The Importance of the Afghan Special Immigrant Program:
- The United States’ presence in Afghanistan has relied on the life-saving assistance of Afghans who put themselves in danger to serve alongside U.S. troops, diplomats and contractors.
- Many of these allies joined U.S. forces to combat violence perpetrated by al-Qaeda, ISIL and the Taliban and now they and their families are targets of terrorism by these same groups.
- Many veterans that served alongside Afghan allies attribute their lives to these individuals and feel strongly that they should be welcomed into the United States as a tribute to their service.
- When we fail to uphold our promises, America’s credibility is severely undermined.
- We want to show the Afghan people that we will follow through on our word and maintain their support of our efforts.
- Other potential allies in the future may be discouraged from assisting U.S. efforts if they don’t think they will be protected and kept safe in return for their work.
LSSNCA Comments on DHS Proposed “Public Charge” Rule
A November 19th letter from CEO Christine Connell provides LSSNCA’s comments on a Department of Homeland Security proposed rule that significantly expands the definition of what benefits constitutes “public charge” for purposes of legal immigration. The rule published in the Federal Register on October 10th (DHS Docket No. USCIS-2010-0012), with a comment deadline of December 10th, significantly alters the current practice that limits public charge benefits to persons who would likely depend on public cash benefits or long-term care at the government’s expense by also including TANF, SSI SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare Part D and Section 8 housing assistance. The rule would force immigrants to choose between seeking benefits for themselves or their families on a short term basis versus the opportunity to attain or maintain legal immigrant status. LSSNCA strongly urges DHS not to promulgate the rule, which is yet another way of hurting immigrants.