Letter from National Security and Humanitarian Leaders on PRM

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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 asthe 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

Ben Cardin,

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