NEW YORK – A revised federal spending package containing billions of dollars in international humanitarian aid that the American bishops support, and absent the border security provisions that the American bishops denounce, is suddenly possible because of a divided Senate.
The original version of the spending package, containing both the humanitarian aid and the border provisions, failed to acquire the 60 votes it needed to pass on Feb. 7, leading Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to push for a version of the fiscal package absent the border provisions.
The revised version could still contain $10 billion in international humanitarian aid that both the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, and its international humanitarian aid agency, Catholic Relief Services, support.
“We, as people of faith, cannot neglect the cries of countless families impacted by conflict, hunger and displacement,” Bill O’Keefe, the Catholic Relief Services executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy said in a Feb. 7 statement on the importance of the funding.
“Basic resources – food, shelter, and clean water – would breathe life into millions of our sisters and brothers suffering from compounding crises,” O’Keefe continued. “Urgent funding, action and leadership by the United States government is necessary to prevent despair and foster peace from Sudan to Ukraine, and from Central America to Gaza.”
Within the $10 billion is an allocation of $5.655 billion in international disaster assistance, and an allocation 3.495 billion in migration and refugee assistance. Both of these allocations are directed at Israel and Ukraine, but have the flexibility to respond to people suffering from crises worldwide. The $10 billion also allocates another $850 million in international disaster assistance solely for the western hemisphere.
The original package, H.R. 815, was the Senate’s version of the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 that had a price tag of $118 billion. That package would’ve addressed border security, humanitarian aid, and aid specific to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.
The revised package essentially drops the border security provisions. After hours of negotiations, late on Feb. 7 the revised package passed its first procedural vote, and was subsequently tabled until noon today.
Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, the USCCB Migration Chair, wrote a letter to Senators on Feb. 6 urging them to reject the border security provisions in the package, arguing that the duty to manage the border should not come at the expense of humanitarian protection for migrants.
Seitz did, however, express support for other aspects of the package including humanitarian aid.
He and other USCCB chairman – Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and chair of USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace – wrote to congressional leaders about its importance of including humanitarian aid in a supplemental funding package back in September.
“As our country more fully recognizes and responds to forced displacement as a regional and global phenomenon this funding will allow the State Department to sustainably and equitably expand Western Hemisphere initiatives without adversely impacting resettlement efforts and international assistance in other parts of the world,” the bishops wrote.
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