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Dear Editor:
The following press release was released by the Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service.

Members of the House of Representatives have announced the formation of a Bipartisan Congressional Refugee Caucus that will seek to focus attention on the plight of the world's 15 million refugees, reverse the recent decline in the US government's traditional commitment to welcoming carefully screened refugees, and help to protect and assist refugees in camps overseas. As a national agency, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS) welcomes this important development and urges all representatives from every state to join the caucus. According to LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., "The U.S. refugee resettlement program remains in serious crisis, leaving thousands of vulnerable refugees at risk around the world. No one foresaw that this already highly regulated humanitarian rescue program would become a victim of September 11, 2001. We are hopeful that the Refugee Caucus will restore the United States' proud tradition of welcoming refugees who work hard and become productive residents of communities throughout America." Overseas, the world's commitment to refugee protection and assistance has also declined. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has been forced to curtail programs that provide refugees food, water, health care and education. Dozens of U.S. relief groups have had to cut their services to refugees because of lack of funds. For example, programs to prevent sexual and gender-based violence against female refugees have been curtailed despite investigations this year pointing to the persistent problem of violence and exploitation committed against refugee women and girls. The Refugee Caucus will also work to ensure adequate protection and assistance for refugees overseas. The Refugee Caucus is co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ04), John Conyers (D-MI14), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL18) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA16).

Meg Arenberg, President's Office Assistant
Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service