Dear Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro,
As you determine priorities for the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Act, we respectfully request that you provide $16 million for the Services to Survivors of Torture (SOT) program administered by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Administration for Children and Families.
The need for torture survivor rehabilitation services is extraordinary. Studies have shown that 44% of refugees in the United States, or approximately 1.3 million people, are primary or secondary survivors of torture. Many of them were leaders in their home countries--doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers--who were targeted for promoting or embodying quintessentially American values. They are resilient and driven to succeed, they just need help overcoming the profound physical and psychological aftereffects of torture.
SOT-funded treatment centers across the country provide such help by delivering comprehensive and specialized care to both refugees and asylum seekers who suffered torture. With the help of these vital services, torture survivors more quickly get back on their feet; they learn English, start businesses, and further integrate into their new communities.
The rehabilitation programs funded through ORR have a proven track record of success, but their resources--and by extension the number of survivors they can serve--pale in comparison to the growing need. Many programs have lengthy waitlists, some as long as eight months, even without conducting outreach. And while Congress has long supported the SOT program the appropriation has remained flat--at $10.735 million--for more than a decade.
We must ensure that local communities have the resources to identify torture survivors and provide them with the care they need. Increasing the FY 2019 SOT appropriation to $16 million would go a long way toward that end.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.