Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) today reintroduced the "Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act," to increase coordination and provide much-needed resources for new Americans fleeing war, persecution, or natural disaster. The bill is being introduced at a time when the momentum for immigration reform is growing. Congressman Ellison will be pushing to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform includes the issues of the refugee community addressed in this bill.
The bill streamlines refugee processing abroad, while taking advantage of that time to provide refugees with English classes and work orientation training. It also allows refugees to be admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents, saving scarce government and non-governmental organization resources.
The bill also strengthens refugee integration into local communities. In particular, it expands the public-private Matching Grant program, which has been highly successful in helping refugees become economically self-sufficient.
"With Congress addressing comprehensive immigration reform in the coming months, there is no better time to pass the "Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act.' This bill makes sure refugee families have the resources they need to be self-sufficient as quickly as possible, and allows families to be reunited with their loved ones. The "Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act' not only helps the 34,000 refugees who have come to Minnesota since 2000 by allowing their family members to be granted permanent residency, but improves America's image abroad."
This bill is particularly important for Minnesotans. According to the University of Minnesota, Minnesota has historically had the highest number of refugees per capita. Between 1999 and 2007, over 34,000 people resettled in Minnesota, from 30 different countries. Over 50,000 Somalis alone--many of them refugees--currently live in Minnesota.