Over 40 former U.S. diplomats and national security officers along with almost 20 humanitarians wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, requesting that the administration keep the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Their letter, dated Sunday, comes amid a planned reorganization of the government, which includes a proposal to eliminate this bureau entirely.
“We are convinced that the elimination of PRM’s assistance functions would have profound and negative implications for the Secretary of State’s capacity to influence policy issues of key concern to the United States,” the letter said. “It would also be ironic, as this is one of the bureaus at State that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support over many years.”
Signatories included key people from the Republican and Democratic parties, including former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and former American diplomat Dennis Ross. They respectively served on former president Barack Obama’s and George H. W. Bush’s administrations.
The team of more than 50 people sent the letter in response to leaked White House Domestic Policy Council documents, and they argued that this was not the time to remove the bureau with so much turmoil abroad.
“We write at a time in which world displacement is at the highest level ever recorded, which underscores the critical importance of U.S. capacity to address this crucial global issue,” the letter said. “The PRM Bureau plays, in effective partnership with USAID, a key role in promoting U.S. humanitarian and foreign policy interests and has been an extraordinarily valuable tool for the Department of State and the Secretary of State — now and over the past decades.”
The letter also was sent to Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as well as Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). They are the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Committees of Foreign Relations and Appropriations subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.