National Security and Humanitarian Leaders Urge Secretary Pompeo Not to Eliminate State Department Refugee Office

The Honorable Mike Pompeo
U.S. Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
 
Dear Mr. Secretary:
 
One year ago, each of us signed a letter to your predecessor regarding deliberations around reorganization of the Department of State. We did so as former diplomats, national security officials, and leaders in our community who have been involved in efforts around the world to address issues relating to conflict and displacement, and we write today to engage with you on this critically important issue and to reiterate the important points made in our letter of last July.
 
In particular, we understand you may shortly be considering the status of the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and we are deeply concerned by recent reports that the Bureau may be eliminated.
 
We believe this would be an error of grave proportion, and we would urge close consultation with the U.S. Congress before such a critically important measure is even considered.
 
As we wrote in our letter last year, the administration has been extremely well-served by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). The PRM Bureau plays, in effective partnership with USAID, a key role in promoting U.S. humanitarian and foreign policy interests, and has been an extraordinarily valuable tool for the Department of State and the Secretary of State – now and over the past decades. For this reason, any reorganization plan should seek to validate and reaffirm the role of PRM.
 
Permit us to present again perspectives on this issue that we offered last year.
 
Refugee issues are rooted in international politics and diplomacy, which are the key concerns of the Department of State and U.S. foreign policy. This is unambiguously reflected in the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, which provides the authority for assistance programs that are now overseen by PRM and have enjoyed strong bipartisan support over many years.    
 
Whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, Turkey, or South Sudan, the Department of State’s efforts to address humanitarian crises must include the tightest coordination of diplomatic engagement and emergency assistance. Displacement needs become key issues of concern for U.S. counterparts during bilateral discussions on issues relating to politics and security, and it is critical that the Secretary of State have at his or her disposal both the expertise and resources from within the Department that PRM provides.
 
We also note that most of the State Department’s provision of humanitarian assistance is through investments in a number of international humanitarian organizations. The State Department’s comprehensive engagement with those organizations, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross – along with USAID programs – provide the United States with enormous influence over how humanitarian organizations operate in areas of concern to the U.S. Government. 
 
We are convinced that the elimination of PRM’s assistance functions would have profound and negative implications for the Secretary of State’s capacity to influence policy issues of key concern to the United States. It would also be ironic, as this is one of the bureaus at State that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support over many years.
 
We also believe it is critical that PRM retain its current responsibilities for the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The 1980 Refugee Act, enacted overwhelmingly by the Congress, made clear that the measure was both an expression of U.S. global interests and a vital tool of U.S. foreign policy. Even modest U.S. refugee resettlement levels can influence host governments to provide safe haven, educational opportunities, and other forms of social integration to significantly larger populations of displaced people, thereby preventing forced returns of refugees and discouraging onward migration – both of which can have destabilizing impacts on fragile regions. The U.S. program has also helped to encourage other countries to provide resettlement opportunities for refugees, and thereby lighten the load for host governments.
 
While a change or elimination of the PRM role in resettlement would be in stark conflict with the goals of the 1980 Refugee Act, we do recognize that other bureaus at State, such as Consular Affairs, as well as other departments of government, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services, have equities in this program. But as we indicated last year, those equities are being met. For example, DHS is deeply engaged in security vetting and determines the eligibility and admissibility of all refugees. In short, nobody enters without DHS approval. But it is PRM that has the staffing infrastructure and the expertise to identify refugee groups in need of protection or resettlement, and to understand the diplomatic consequences or opportunities to leverage resettlement for U.S. foreign policy interests.
 
In conclusion, we once again encourage you in the strongest of terms to sustain the roles and vitally important mission of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
 
Sincerely,
 
Former government officials:
 
Frederick D. Barton
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations
Former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees
Former Director, Office of Transition Initiatives, US Agency for International Development (USAID)
 
Robert M. Beecroft
Former Head of Mission, OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina
 
Rand Beers
Former Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
 
Mark Bellamy
Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya
Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
 
Robert Blake
Former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
Former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, to Sri Lanka and to the Maldives
 
Barbara Bodine
Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen
 
Mark Brzezinski
Former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden
Former National Security Council Director for Russian/Eurasian Affairs and Southeast European Affairs
 
Reuben Brigety
Former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union
 
Nicholas Burns
Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and to Greece
Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior NSC Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia
 
William J. Burns
Former Deputy Secretary of State
Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and to Jordan
 
Ryan Crocker
Former Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon
 
Sheba Crocker
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
 
James B. Cunningham
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to Afghanistan and to Israel
 
Jeffrey Davidow
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Venezuela and Zambia
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
 
Arthur “Gene” Dewey
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
 
James I. Gadsden
Former U.S. Ambassador to Iceland
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
 
Gordon Gray
Former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia
Former Director, State Department Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations
 
Victoria K. Holt
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
 
David J. Kramer
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
 
Daniel C. Kurtzer
Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel
 
Mark P. Lagon
Former Ambassador-at-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State
 
Ellen Laipson
Former Vice Chair, U.S. National Intelligence Council
 
Frank Loy
Former Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs
 
Princeton Lyman
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
Former Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
 
Phyllis Oakley
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
 
Lynn Pascoe
Former U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia and Indonesia
Former UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs
 
Nancy Ely-Raphel
Former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia
Former Coordinator for the Balkans, U.S. Department of State
 
Anne C. Richard
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
Former Director, Secretary of State’s Office of Resources, Plans and Policy
 
Ellen Sauerbrey
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
 
Teresita Shaffer
Former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka
 
Wendy Sherman
Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
 
William H. Taft
Former Legal Advisor, Department of State
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO
Former General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
 

 

Representatives of Non-governmental Organizations:
 
Eleanor Acer
Senior Director, Refugee Protection
Human Rights First
 
T. Alexander Aleinikoff
Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School
Former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees
Former General Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Department of Justice
 
Scott Arbeiter
President
World Relief
 
Dr. Georgette F. Bennett
Founder, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
 
Mark Hetfield
President and CEO
HIAS
 
Erol Kekic
Senior Vice President
Church World Service
 
Neal Keny-Guyer
CEO
Mercy Corps
 
Carolyn Miles
President and CEO
Save the Children
 
David Miliband
President and CEO
International Rescue Committee
 
Eric P. Schwartz
President
Refugees International
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population Refugees and Migration
Former Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs
 
Wendy Young
President
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
 
 
 
Copies to:
 
Senator Bob Corker, Chair
Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
 
Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair
Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
 
Representative Ed Royce, Chair
Representative Eliot Engel, Ranking Member
House Foreign Affairs Committee
 
Representative Hal Rogers, Chair
Representative Nita Lowey, Ranking Member

House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

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