Refugee Programs in Jeopardy

Yesterday’s blog post discussed the role that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) plays in providing services at JFCS. We promised more information, so now we’d like to go into more detail about what’s happening right now.

Check in with us on Sunday to learn more about how these cuts will directly affect refugees and our community.


In 2003, ORR became responsible for taking custody of Unaccompanied Children (UAC) who are fleeing violence and economic strife in Central America. These children are not entering our country through legal means, but they still need food, shelter, and other vital services while they wait for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to process their cases. Unlike JFCS clients, these children have not come to our country legally. There is much controversy over who is responsible for their care, and there is no doubt that many of them are in horrible situations.

Unaccompanied children are extremely vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers and often face our complicated immigration system without the assistance of attorneys. Rather than turn these children over to DHS, which is the agency responsible for prosecuting them and returning them to their home countries, human rights organizations and political leaders agreed that a different agency should care for these children throughout the process. ORR had a successful program for unaccompanied refugee minors, so it was chosen for the task.

The Problem

The issue is coming to light now because the number of unaccompanied children arriving to the U.S. has increased dramatically from 6,100 children in 2009 to nearly 70,000 children this year. This far exceeds the initial projections, and puts ORR in a budgetary bind.

ORR has received $912 million in appropriations for the UAC program, but more is needed to care for these children. ORR will be required to transfer $94 million of refugee program funding to the UAC program in early July to cover the increasing shortfall in the UAC program. Many refugee services are already underfunded, and these cuts would have devastating consequences not only for refugees but also for our community.

The Solution

The U.S. must show leadership in helping these children while honoring its prior commitments to the refugee resettlement program. In order to prevent gaps in refugee services, ORR should receive $200 million in addition to its current budget, for a total of $3.1 billion. This way the office can meet the needs of both unaccompanied children and the refugee population.

The ORR budget for the next fiscal year will be decided before July 4, 2014. We are asking Congress to increase the ORR budget to $3.1 billion to prevent reductions in refugee resettlement services and meet the needs of the UAC program.

All members of Congress need to hear from their constituents that ORR funding must be substantially increased to meet the needs of unaccompanied children and all eligible refugee populations. In order to prevent gaps in refugee services, ORR should receive $200 million in addition to its current budget, for a total of $3.1 billion. Congress is currently deciding ORR’s FY15 budget, so calls are needed urgently.

What You Can Do

Call and write your Senators, your U.S. Representative, and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Ask them to take action to increase the ORR budget to $3.1 billion to prevent reductions in refugee resettlement services and meet the needs of the UAC program.

• Everyone should contact Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. His district covers Eastern Kentucky, but no refugees are directly resettled there. There are populations of secondary migrants living in his district.

• Kentucky residents should contact Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul. McConnell is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

• Louisville residents should contact Representative John Yarmuth.

• Lexington residents should contact Representative Andy Barr.

• Bowling Green and Owensboro residents should contact Representative Brett Guthrie.

Spread the word through social media. Send tweets to your senators and representatives (see listing below), as well as the House and Senate appropriations committees (@SenateApprops, @HouseAppropsGOP, @AppropsDems), urging them to increase ORR funding for FY2015.

• Everyone should tweet @RepHalRogers.

• Kentucky residents, tweet @McConnellPress and @SenRandPaul.

• Louisville residents, tweet @RepJohnYarmuth.

• Lexington residents, tweet @RepAndyBarr.

• Bowling Green and Owensboro residents, tweet @RepGuthrie.


Stay informed. Follow @KYRefugeeOffice as they tweet daily to urge the appropriations committees to increase funding to ORR. Follow @JFCSLouisville for more information about this issue, JFCS programs, outcomes, success stories and much more!


Kentucky Legislators

Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers
Click here to contact the Appropriations Committee.
Click here if you live in Rogers’ district.

Senator Mitch McConnell
Click here to contact Senator McConnell.

Senator Rand Paul
Click here to contact Senator Paul.

Representative John Yarmuth
Click here to contact Rep. Yarmuth.

Representative Andy Barr
Click here to contact Rep. Barr.

Representative Brett Guthrie
Click here to contact Rep. Guthrie.


This report was compiled from information provided by Catholic Charities of Louisville, Kentucky Office for Refugees and Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice.

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