Note: This is a state concern and is not related directly to President Trump’s suspension of the refugee program.
BACKGROUND: The Florida House Subcommittee on Children, Families and Seniors will hold a hearing to discuss the future of the state’s Refugee Resettlement Program. Representative David Santiago (R-Deltona) has filed a bill (HB 427) that requires the state to withdraw from the federally-funded refugee program by December 31, 2017. This would require the federal government to transfer program coordination to a private agency or agencies.
Currently, the state of Florida collaborates with state and local government entities and private, community-based nongovernmental organizations to deliver crucial services and support that help refugees, recently-arrived people from Cuba and Haiti, and other vulnerable newcomers to achieve self-sufficiency in a society radically different than their own. Ministries of Florida’s Catholic community eagerly partner with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to help refugees and immigrants become contributing members of communities throughout our great state. This partnership fulfills our legacy as citizens and people of faith who welcome our neighbors fleeing persecution and violence. A decision by the state to withdraw from coordination of what is by far the largest resettlement program in the U.S. and transfer it to a private entity or entities would disrupt the delivery of vital services to individuals and families seeking to build new lives in an unfamiliar, yet safe, home.
Recent changes in federal resettlement policies will have a significant impact on the number of participants in Florida’s Refugee Resettlement Program. In correspondence to Governor Rick Scott and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, FCCB president, states, “…to add restructuring of the coordination role of this important program at a time of such policy upheaval would be imprudent as well as unnecessary. It could add a layer of complexity that will only exacerbate the strain to providers with a potentially negative impact on refugees, Cubans and other new arrivals, and also on the communities welcoming them.”
TAKE ACTION: Tell your Florida state representative and Governor Scott that you support Florida’s current resettlement program and urge continued coordination of the program by DCF.