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Reps. Hastings and Dingell Disappointed in Bush’s Failure to Recognize Iraqi Refugee Crisis in State of the Union Address

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, and Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, issued the following statement in response to President Bush’s State of the Union Address. Hastings and Dingell are deeply disappointed by the President’s failure to recognize the massive displacement of Iraqis and the impending humanitarian crisis rapidly ensuing in the region. More than two million refugees have fled to neighboring countries and an additional 2.5 million Iraqis have been internally displaced. 

“Whether or not you agree with the Administration’s strategy in Iraq, one cannot forget that we have a moral obligation to help, not ignore the crisis ensuing in the region. We are deeply troubled by the fact that President Bush did not mention once in his State of the Union Address a plan to aid the millions of Iraqis who have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge either in neighboring countries or elsewhere in Iraq. 

“Just last week we wrote to President Bush requesting an additional $1.5 billion to address this growing humanitarian and security crisis in an effort to prevent the further destabilization of an already volatile region. We have yet to receive a response to our letter, which clearly demonstrates this Administration’s refusal to address the crisis. We cannot turn a blind eye and hope the problem fixes itself. It is imperative that we lead the international response to this imploding situation, before it is too late,” said Hastings and Dingell. 

On January 22, Hastings and Dingell sent a letter to President Bush requesting additional funding in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget to aid Iraqi refugees and internally displaced populations (IDP) in Iraq. In particular, Hastings and Dingell requested $80 million to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees next year, $80 million in benefits for 5000 special immigrant visa recipients, $200 million for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that will provide humanitarian assistance for those displaced within Iraq and $700 million in bilateral humanitarian assistance to Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. The Bush Administration has not yet responded to the letter. 

Following the release of the President’s budget on February 4, Hastings and Dingell will be leading efforts with other Members of Congress, urging the House Appropriations Committee to recognize the critical need for a robust increase in funding for Iraqi refuges and IDPs. 

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