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CWS Celebrates Victory for Refugees and Their Advocates
A November 6, 2000, Statement from Church World Service

 Church World Service is delighted to announce that the campaign to increase funding for Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) resulted in a major victory for grassroots advocates concerned for the protection and care of refugees.  The Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program worked with other non-governmental organizations in a nation-wide summer campaign to increase the funding of the MRA, a part of the U.S. Foreign Operations budget, to $700 million. 

 MRA provides funds for the resettlement of refugees admitted to the U.S. as well as assistance to refugees needing protection abroad.  This account provides contributions to refugee protection agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and others.  MRA also provides funds for the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. by faith-based and humanitarian agencies.

 Because refugee numbers worldwide are on the rise, Church World Service was alarmed at the low numbers for MRA proposed by Congress and the Clinton Administration.  Earlier this summer, the Senate asked for $615 million for MRA, while the House asked for $645 million.   The administration called for $658 million.  Knowing that much more was needed, Church World Service and its partners in the Refugee Council USA asked their national response networks to advocate for increased funding to their elected officials.   The resulting “Refugees in Crisis” campaign came to cities in Alabama, Kentucky, Texas, Mississippi and Alaska, where church and community members wrote thousands of letters to Congress and the President asked for funding to MRA adequate to meet the needs of the world’s growing refugee population.

 As a result of this victory for refugees, we have proof that advocacy works.  Across the country, members of churches, faith based advocacy organizations and secular organizations participated in calling for an increase in funding of the MRA.  Their efforts resulted in passing a Foreign Operations Budget with $700 dollars for Migration and Refugee Assistance.  This will restore $14 million in assistance to African refugees and permit 9,000 U.S. admissions, which would have been cut with a smaller budget. 

 Church World Service Washington Representative, Joan M. Maruskin, hailed the dedication of advocates who helped to make this possible.  This is a prime example of the American way of government,” she said.  “Our representatives listen to the voices of their constituents.  The faith community recognizes its history is one of uprooted peoples and has successfully advocated for assistance for those who are uprooted in today's world. Once again the church has embraced the role of being the voice for the voiceless and that voice was heard.’”

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