Of course it’s possible that Melanie Nezer and Mark Hetfield—two of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society‘s executives and DC insiders—aren’t being completely honest to those on last Thursday’s conference call, but since they were looking for help from supporters, I don’t know what they would gain by being cagey with them.
To save me a lot of work, I’m going to simply list nuggets I learned while listening. Here they are in no particular order:
~Funding the USRAP continues for now at the FY16 level and they say that is enough for 75,000 refugees a year.
~75,000 is their minimum target number for FY18 in order to not “undermine [their] infrastructure” (code for keeping the federal money coming so they can pay salaries and rent, but of course they never admitted that to listeners on the call). Less than 50,000 would mean “long lasting erosion” of the program.
~Everything is very confused this year they say. No Presidential Determination (PD) yet. (I expected them to know more!)
~They say the Report to Congress (in advance of the PD) has come in June or July in some previous years. I have never seen it that early. It usually is mid-September because until the last couple of years, Congress didn’t care what the President sent up. Other than a few diligent staffers, it is likely that no members actually ever looked at the report. See last year’s report dated September 15th by clicking here.
~Mark Hetfield likened the PD to another kind of Executive Order. I think he wants to make it sound like its an Executive Order for future lawsuits.
~They admit they have a stable of lawyers ready and waiting for all possibilities from this White House.
~They even suggested there is a possibility that Trump would make no PD! Wow! One of their people remarked that Bush delayed his immediately after 9/11, but that was understandable they admitted (implying the Trump situation is not). So even they are considering the possibility of a suspension of the program.
~A caller asked if there was any way Congress could ‘punish’ the President if he simply doesn’t make a ‘determination’ or initiate a consultation in the coming 3 weeks. No, there isn’t, said one of the HIAS experts. But, their stable of lawyers is looking at all the legal angles.
~Until Trump was elected, they (contractors) were in “expansion mode” opening new offices in new towns. Bringing in more communities now is impossible.
~There was a lot of discussion about what refugee advocates could do. Top of the list was to tell their Congressmen and Senators that they want to “welcome” more refugees. Interestingly, I believe it was Hetfield who admitted the President sets the number not Congress, but important to try to get Congress to pressure Prez.
~They asked listeners to set up meetings with their Washington Reps in their own districts. But, surprisingly, could not give a caller the names of specific reps to target.
~Some other action ideas included getting rabbis to sign their letter in support of more refugees. They have 48 states represented but no one from North and South Dakota.
~They want people to show up to demonstrate on the steps of the Supreme Court when it hears the so-called ‘travel ban’ case on October 10th. A caller asked how the timing of the case and the decision announcement (could be May or June) would affect refugee admissions, and the experts on the call could not say. As I said in my earlier post this morning, their own lawsuits have made such a hash of the program they have probably done more damage to refugee admissions than if they had simply let the 120 day moratorium run its course.
~They want people to plan demonstrations and to use social media to get the pro-more-refugees message out. And, they want donations.
~There were several mentions of all the eager volunteers who want to help resettle refugees, but alas they may be disappointed with few new ones coming. I felt like shouting—-put them to work helping your previously resettled refugees who are struggling, or better still tell them to help American refugees of Harvey and soon-to-be refugees from Irma.
There is a lot more, those of you in ‘pockets of resistance’ should listen to the 43-minute call, here. Then…..