Letter on the State reorganization

ISD director Barbara Bodine and board members William J. Burns, James Irvin Gadsden and Ellen Laipson sign onto letter supporting bureau of population refugees and migration. 

[Download the letter]

letter_to_secretary_of_state_tillerson_-_corrected.pdf

[Text]

July 16, 2017
The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As former diplomats and national security officials who have served in Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, and community leaders who have been involved in efforts around the world to address issues relating to conflict and displacement, we write with respect to your deliberations around the reorganization of the Department of State.

We write at a time in which world displacement is at the highest level ever recorded, which underscores the critical importance of U.S. capacity to address this crucial global issue. In this respect, the Administration is very fortunate to have 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.

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 strong role in the governing bodies of those organizations, such as UNHCR and ICRC – 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, passed 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 State Department’s role would be in stark conflict with the goals of the 1980 Refugee Act, we do recognize that the Department of Homeland Security has important equities in this program. But DHS already plays a significant role, by ensuring robust security vetting and by determining the eligibility and admissibility of all refugees. In short, nobody enters without DHS approval. But DHS has neither the international staffing infrastructure nor the expertise to identify refugee groups in need of protection or resettlement, nor to understand the diplomatic consequences or opportunities to leverage resettlement for U.S. foreign policy interests.

In conclusion, we 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 and to Sri Lanka and 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
Lorne Craner Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Former Member, National Security Council Staff
 
Sheba Crocker
Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
 
James Cunningham
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to Afghanistan and to Israel
 
Mary Curtin
Former Political Counselor, US Mission to the European Union
 
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
 
Jean Geran
Former National Security Council Director for Democracy and Human Rights
 
Jeremy Konyndyk
Former Director, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
 
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
 
Elise Jordan
Former National Security Council Director for Communications
 
David 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 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 US Ambassador to Malaysia and Indonesia Former UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs
 
James Purcell
Former Director, Bureau of Refugee Program
Former Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
 
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
 
Dennis Ross
Former Special Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for the Central Region
Former special Middle East coordinator
Former Director, Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State
 
Ellen Sauerbrey
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
 
Teresita Schaffer
Former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Kori Schake
Former Deputy Director for Policy Planning, Department of State
Former National Security Council Director for Defense Strategy and Requirements
 
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
 
Sam Witten
Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration
Former State Department Deputy Legal Advisor
 
 
Representatives of Non-governmental Organizations:
 
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 Linda Hartke President and CEO Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Mark Hetfield President and CEO HIAS Erol Kekic Executive Director, Immigration and Refugee Program Church World Service Anwar Khan CEO Islamic Relief USA Neal Keny-Guyer CEO Mercy Corps Lavinia Limon President and CEO U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
 
Elisa Massimino
President and CEO
Human Rights First
 
Carolyn Miles
President and CEO
Save the Children
 
David Miliband
President and CEO
International Rescue Committee
 
David Ray
Vice President for Global Advocacy
CARE USA
 
David M. Robinson
Executive Director,
Jesuit Refugee Service USA Former Assistant Secretary of State, Conflict and Stabilization Operations
 
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
 
The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson
Director
Episcopal Migration Ministries
 
Tsehaye Teferra President and CEO Ethiopian Community Development Council 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