HIAS: Asylum Seekers and Humanitarian Assistance Must Be Prioritized in Long-Term Government Funding

SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS is relieved that Congress averted a shutdown of the federal government with the passage of a short-term funding bill Saturday night. At the same time, the organization continues to call on lawmakers to protect humanitarian assistance, and urges them not to compromise the rights of refugees or asylum seekers as they work to reach agreement on a final funding package.

“We know that this is just a reprieve, with only 45 days for both houses of Congress to come together to reach a long-term funding agreement,” said HIAS Vice President for U.S. Policy and Advocacy Naomi Steinberg. “We remain deeply concerned about moves on Capitol Hill that could result in an agreement made on the backs of asylum seekers and the legal and moral obligations of the United States to protect people who are in need of asylum or other forms of protection. One of the most fundamental responsibilities of Congress is to fund the government — but it should not do so by further eviscerating the rights of those who are displaced.”

“We are particularly concerned that we have not yet seen the end of H.R. 2 — also known as the ‘Secure Border Act,’” Steinberg added. “H.R. 2 is not border security legislation. It is a bill that would create chaos and confusion. It would, among other things, eliminate the right to seek asylum for people who enter the U.S. between ports of entry; restore the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as ‘Remain in Mexico;’ and detain immigrant families, including small children.”

“In addition to continuing our advocacy in opposition to H.R. 2, HIAS and our partners will also use the next 45 days to urge Congress to include additional funding for benefits for Uniting for Ukraine arrivals,” Steinberg continued. “It is urgent that any final funding package include language that allows Ukrainian humanitarian parolees who arrive after September 30, 2023 to be eligible for Office of Refugee Resettlement services. Congress must also include in their final funding package robust humanitarian assistance funding for Ukraine and other humanitarian crises globally. Dramatic cuts or delays of humanitarian assistance would undermine U.S. leadership and devastate displaced people in need of lifesaving support.”

“We also remain focused on ensuring that the Lautenberg Amendment — a provision that has served as a critical pathway for historically persecuted religious minorities from former Soviet Union countries and Iran to reunite with their loved ones in the U.S. — is included in the final funding package, as it has been for decades,” Steinberg said. “As lawmakers work toward a long-term agreement, HIAS cannot accept any deal based on principles that are anathema to who we are as a Jewish community and the American tradition as a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”

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