— by David Miliband, International Rescue Committee, President and CEO
Late last week the State Department reluctantly announced that they would have to extend to three weeks the standard one-week moratorium that takes place at the beginning of each fiscal year. The State Department is concerned that the essential services and benefits provided to refugees when they first arrive to the United States would not be available.
For the affected refugees – who are among the world’s most vulnerable people – the delay is of real concern. They have already been waiting a long time for the chance to come to the United States to re-start their lives. Those expecting to travel in the coming weeks would have already cut their ties, moved their families, and sold their possessions. A delay such as this prolongs the uncertainty they have been living with, some for as long as decades, and in some cases could put their lives at additional risk.
The shutdown is also affecting refugees who have recently arrived in the U.S. Essential benefits and services that ensure they get off to a strong start cannot be provided. In some states, services such as E-Verify, the government-run program that determines eligibility to work in the U.S., cannot be accessed. Its absence impedes refugees’ ability to obtain that crucial first job – something that is essential as they strive towards self-sufficiency here.
The IRC is paying close attention to the ways in which the shutdown is affecting our work with refugees, both here in the U.S., and around the world. For the moment we are using private funding to ensure that refugees already here are not adversely affected by the politics of Washington. We hope for a resolution to this standoff in the near future.