On Saturday, Congress worked down to the wire to pass legislation funding the government through Fiscal Year 2015, which ends September 30, 2015. The 1,013 page bill that passed both chambers of Congress authorizes $1.1 trillion in spending for almost the entire government. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was not agreed upon. Instead, the bill continues existing funding levels for DHS only through the end of February to allow the new Congress to deliberate spending measures related to the President’s November 20 actions on behalf of migrants and their families.
Here is a breakdown of how this legislation affects funding for migrants and refugees:
Ensuring protection of children and families from Central America seeking safety:
- The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) received a small increase in funding, bringing their budget to $1.56 billion. Portions of this budget will go to support children who have fled to the United States alone and for schools that have seen an increase in enrollment of these children.
- HHS was given increased flexibility in its spending, which we hope will prevent ORR from taking funds away from refugee social services to meet the needs of children arriving alone.
Ensuring protection of refugees overseas:
- The State Department received $3.06 billion for their budget for refugees and internally-displaced persons. This funding will go toward helping address humanitarian crises abroad, including the root causes of migration from Central America.
- The Lautenberg Amendment, which allows certain religious minorities to seek safety and a new life in the United States, is extended through the end of FY 2015.
Ensuring due process to vulnerable migrants:
- The Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) received an increase of $315 million for 35 new immigration judge teams, which will lead to 39,000 more case adjudications annually, providing greater due process for those going before immigration courts including children and families seeking refuge from Central America.
We are dismayed that this bill continues funding arbitrary and large-scale immigration detention, including the inhumane practice of family detention. LIRS has long opposed the detention of migrant families as it threatens the psycho-social well-being of mothers and children, in addition to preventing their full and fair access to legal representation and information. As Congress again considers funding for the Department of Homeland Security in January or February, we will be seeking your help in calling for more welcoming, humane, and compassionate responses to migrants and refugees.
If you feel called to do so, stand up against family detention through the LIRS Action Center. Be the voice for hundreds of children who will spend Christmas isolated in detention.
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