Catholic Charities behind push for Congress to protect services

On this July 4 weekend, tens of thousands of refugees given permission to enter our country and share our freedoms are threatened with having critical support services suspended, becoming collateral damage of the crisis of unaccompanied immigrant minors arriving at our border.  

“It is our belief that both populations can and should be helped,” said David Aguillard, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge which houses the office that manages the State’s four resettlement agencies.  “We should not turn our backs on those our country has already committed to help.”

On June 20, the US Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced plans to shift $94M away from services for screened and approved refugees in order to aid unaccompanied immigrant children (UIC) arriving at US border. Those cuts will take effect on July 5 if Congress permits. The cuts will reduce refugee services in job placement and training,English lessons, interpretative services, transportation and access to health services.

“We have asked our Congressional representatives to intervene and not let these cuts take place.  For the second time in three years, ORR will be taking funding away from refugees who have risked their lives, suffered tremendously, and earned an invitation to join our communities,” Aguillard said.

Over the past five years, Louisiana has resettled approximately 2,000 refugees. This includes asylum seekers, Iraqis and Afghans who assisted US military forces, Cuban and Haitian entrants, victims of human trafficking and survivors of torture. In Louisiana, refugee arrivals are expected to increase during the next fiscal year. 

If funds are cut, over 200 Louisiana employable adult refugees will be left to fend for themselves in order to find and obtain jobs.   Aguillard estimates this could result in 60-100 fewer jobs for refugees, threatening their projected earnings of nearly $1.75 million a year and subsequently burdening public and private support services. 

The negative impact will reach across the country.   Bart Weigel, of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, said Kentucky’s state refugee program could lose up to $2.28M, devastating its resettlement network. 

“It is our hope, as a humanitarian nation, Congress will dedicate resources to both address the humanitarian crisis of the unaccompanied minors currently in our country's custody as well as honor our commitment to the broader international community in regard to refugee resettlement,” Weigel said. 

Aguillard added, “That’s really a loss for everyone because Louisiana is in the best position in years to utilize refugee skills, with some industries desperately needing the skills and work ethic of refugees.”

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