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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      House Committee on Foreign Affairs
    IntroducedJuly 19th, 2018

What is it?

This bill — known as the UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act of 2018 — would establish a U.S. policy with respect to contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). It’d prohibit U.S. funding from being provided to an individual unless they are a person, the spouse, or minor child of a person who: 1) resided in the region controlled by Britain from 1922-1948 known as Mandatory Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948; 2) was personally displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1948; and 3) has not accepted an offer of legal residency status, citizenship, or other permanent adjustment in status in another country.

Under this bill, U.S. policy with regard to the UNRWA would be to:

  • Support UNRWA solely to the extent necessary to accomplish its original and intended purpose to resettle refugees from the Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1948;

  • Make contributions to UNRWA in proportion to the number of refugees it assistants that meet the U.S. definition of a refugee; and

  • Continue to assist other needy populations around the the world, including Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, through international aid and development assistance

The Secretary of State would be responsible for determining and providing UNRWA a voluntary contribution in an amount proportional to the total requested U.S. contribution as the proportion that refugees of the Arab-Israeli Conflict of 1948 who meet the U.S. definition of a refugee bear to the full population supported by UNRWA programs. Any funds made available to the Secretary of State that are withheld from UNRWA in accordance with this determination, would instead be made available to the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for providing assistance to other populations in need in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

In accordance with the prohibition in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, U.S. assistance couldn’t be made available to any refugee receiving military training as a member of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) or who is a part of any organization engaging in acts of terrorism.

To maintain consistency with the definition of a refugee in the Immigration and Nationality Act and its requirements for refugee status eligibility, the United States’ policy shall be that: 1) derivative refugee status may only be extended to the spouse or minor child of a refugee; and 2) an alien who was firmly resettled in any country is not eligible to retain refugee status.

Impact

Palestinian refugees; United States Agency for International Development; United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; Secretary of State; Palestine Liberation Army.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate for this bill is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) introduced this bill to limit the amount and scope of United States contributions to UNRWA:

“We must return UNRWA to its original framework and address this false narrative of an inflated refugee population, which has made a mockery of both those who are true refugees around the world and those who are truly living in deplorable conditions throughout the region. This is an important first step to help Palestinians who are truly in need. Palestinians in Gaza are not refugees; they are a population suffering under the Hamas terror regime, whose leaders take aid money and instead of building schools and hospitals, build terror tunnels and send rockets hidden under UNRWA schools in Gaza into kindergartens in Israel. The United States should continue to help these and other needy populations around the world through already-established, appropriately identified humanitarian programs.”

Rep. Lamborn argues that UNRWA inflates its refugee count, and serves as an anti-Semitic and anti-American agency:

“UNRWA's inflated refugee count is intended to increase the number of Palestinians that would receive the so-called right of return. U.S. funds should only go to UNRWA to the extent that they carry out their original mission of resettling refugees. Unfortunately, UNRWA has become another anti-Semitic and anti-American agency at the United Nations. It is time for the United States to address UNRWA's twisted definition of a refugee. This is the first step towards peace in the region."

Foundation for Middle East Peace and Christians United For Israel (CUFI) support this bill. CUFI, at whose annual conference this bill was announced, has fully endorsed this bill as a means to help solve the Palestinian refugee situation. CUFI founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee says:

“UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by keeping the Palestinians captive as eternal refugees. Those educated on the issue, who truly aim to solve these crises as opposed to enable it, should support UNRWA reform and back this bill.”

Asaf Romirowsky, executive executive director of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East nonprofit and co-author of the 2013 book Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief, says that reform is long overdue:

“We have seen a complete and total Palestinian takeover of UNRWA is similar to regulatory capture, which occurs when a state regulatory authority is taken over by the interests or industries that it is designed to control. UNRWA is an international agency that is effectively managed by the interests that it is intended to serve.”

Romirowsky says that UNRWA uses “coercive soft power” on international politics and media to shield itself from scrutiny while extending its mandate:

“This has been done in large part by members of the ‘refugee’ population itself working within UNRWA, with the help of the senior international managerial staff. By acting as a pressure group, the organization has thus been able to extend its mandate, and ward off oversight and reform.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), says this bill is unacceptable and illegal, and won’t affect the status quo. He argues that the rights of refugees are protected by UN Resolution 194, which cannot be bypassed. The Middle East Monitor, reporting on this bill, points out that that “this would mean the descendants of those violently evicted from their homeland in 1948 would not be eligible for aid in spite of continuing to live as refugees in a foreign country.”

The Palestinian Authority ministry, which opposes this bill, alleges that the Trump administration and its “religious Zionist staff [are] continuing to make a mockery of international law in a bid to impose their positions and policies, which are blindly biased in favor of the Israeli occupation, on the international community with unprecedented arrogance.”

There are 13 cosponsors of this bill, all of whom are Republicans.


Of Note: After the State of Israel’s creation in 1948, the United Nations created the UNRWA to help resettle nearly 600,000 Palestinians who were displaced by the Arab-Israeli Conflict. After 70 years of this work, UNRWA now claims that there are 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the world, including descendants of those original refugees who live in other nations This definition of “refugee” is inconsistent with how all other refugees in the world are classified, including the definition used by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the laws concerning refugees in the United States — and critics argue that this has allowed UNRWA to inflate its refugee numbers and get more funding.

Sources familiar with a classified State Department report that counts the number of actual Palestinian refugees say the actual number of refugees is closer to 20,000-30,000 and that U.S. officials have over-classified the report in question in order to prevent public disclosure that could cripple UNRWA.

The U.S. contributes hundreds of millions annually to UNRWA, making up 25% of UNRWA’s annual operating budget. The Trump administration significantly reduced funding to UNRWA earlier in 2018 in an effort to reform the agency, which has long faced accusations of anti-Israel bias and has been accused of providing material support to the Hamas terror group.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStock / akesak)

AKA

UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act of 2018

Official Title

To establish the policy of the United States with respect to contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and for other purposes.

    For god sakes don't let Trump make up this definition. The UN should hold that responsibility re. defining who is considered a refugee and who isn't. Hopefully, the UN has more sense than Trump.
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    It is time for Palestinians to get serious about peacefully building their nation
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    No the narrowing of this bills is not necessary as the years of persons who would benefit from it shows that they would be 71 at the youngest. Additionally, this is a function of the UN. We either contribute funds and attend meetings to determine fund spending or we withdrawal from the entity. You can not belong to a group and pick and choose what best suits your needs and not the whole in the grand scheme of things. As far as the whole Palestine vs Israel (Jewish population) this is very similar to the infiltration of the USA and the displacement of the native Americans. It is time for the Middle East to come to terms with each other; remove walls and begin a new nation without religious persecution from either side.
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    It is challenging to make a decision without evidence. Have the co-Sponsors of the bill provided compelling evidence from independent, credible sources showing where the funds are actually being used?
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    What’s wrong with you people? Have you no decency?
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    I am Jewish and a supporter of Israel. But I do not approve of the continued seizure of lands by Israel. Nor do I approve of the United States using humanitarian aid as a means to pressure Palestinian refugees. Frankly, I think such measures will backfire and simply build anger and resistance among Palestinians against Israel and the US. Increased terrorism and support for terrorism will result. Once again, the Trump administration is trying to strong arm people into doing what he wants and that is more likely to stiffen resistance than result in peace.
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    Cut all US aid to "Israel" and the House of Saud.
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    The bill is worthless. The USA should withdraw all funding for the UN and let them resettle in Switzerland (where they belong).
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    The plight of the Palestinians is horrible enough; let the refugees maintain their status....
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    We should not be supporting the Palestinians at all. It’s time for the Arab countries to step up and take care of their own and incorporate them as citizens. As long as we pay out welfare for them, they will continue to stay stateless . This has become a welfare state and we have enough of it in our country, we don’t need to go around the world looking for it.
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    I think it is racism and aggression of the worst sort to push the Palestinians out of their homeland . The suffering of the Jews in holocaust is no justification for causing suffering of the Palestinians
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    Leave the decision to the United Nations. All the current US administration can think of is screwing over innocent people.
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    Does the USA really want to risk further destabilizing this region? Jared Kushner is behind this. Please investigate his motives.
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    No, we should let the UN decide who is eligible for aid. Furthermore we should stop funding there abusers.
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    I believe that taking such action further polarizes the Palestinians against Israel and the US, and it is better to leave eligibility for UNRWA aid in the hands of the UN, rather than the US government
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    FREE PALESTINE! I’m a voter in Ohio’s 12th congressional district and I strongly oppose this bill.
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    End this aid and get out of the UN AND BAN IT FROM AMERICAN SHORES. IT IS A DEEP STATE NEW WORLD ORDER TOOL AT BEST.
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