A measure extending aid to 5,600 elderly and disabled refugees was expected to garner unanimous support in the Senate. A recent New York Times editorial warned of possible opposition to the measure in this current budget climate—but Democratic and Republican leaders reached a deal: by charging a $30 fee on diversity visas, they could cover the extended benefits for a year and even reduce the deficit by $24 million.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke from the Senate floor to note the bipartisan support for the annual measure and to thank his Republican colleagues, including Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Cornyn (Texas), and Orrin Hatch (Utah) for their support.
But it turns out the real threat to the bill is not a frenzy to balance the budget. It’s Sen. Paul Rand (R-Ky.) and his newfound antagonism toward a long tradition of welcoming refugees to the United States.
Despite increased security checks, and even though funds for the Supplemental Security Income on which elderly and disabled refugees rely are separate from the benefits provided to newly arrived refugees, Sen. Paul is insisting on “a full investigation on our practice of providing welfare to refugees” according to statements issued to Politico (Rand Paul blocking refugee funds) and Roll Call (Senator Rand Paul Blocks Aid for Disabled, Elderly Refugees).
“This bill is not about terrorism, it is about elderly, disabled refugees being able to literally survive,” Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Roll Call. “Our elected officials should know the difference.”
Until Senator Paul learns the difference (or, to paraphrase Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy [D-Vt.], until a 100 member Senate votes on things without allowing every one Senator to force the whole word to revolve around their issues), the elderly and disabled refugees who counted on $670 to get by each month will feel their lifeline slipping out of reach.
In the words of the New York Times’s latest editorial on the subject: “Mr. Paul is right that no terrorists should be on the dole. But his hold is letting innocent refugees suffer. He should lift it and end this disgrace.”