NJ Human Services to Oversee Vital Program for Those Seeking Refuge from Violence & Persecution; Move Reverses 2016 Christie Decision
(TRENTON) – New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson today announced that New Jersey as of Tuesday resumed its role as the State Refugee Coordinator of the Refugee Resettlement Program.
The move restores the state’s oversight of this critical program that serves refugees and asylees resettling in New Jersey and provides assistance such as medical support, employment services and other social services to refugee families.
The announcement comes on the heels of Trump Administration plans to cut refugee admissions for the new federal fiscal year to 18,000 – an all-time low and down from the 111,000 ceiling just two years ago – and after it issued an executive order that would prohibit localities from resettling refugees without written consent from their state government.
“New Jersey is resuming this role at a critical time,” Commissioner Johnson said. “The federal government’s policy is wrong and devastating for refugees desperate for safety and to be reunited with their families. We stand ready to welcome refugees and recognize their contribution to our state.”
Governor Murphy on July 4th announced the state’s intention to take back the program, reversing a 2016 decision by the Christie Administration to relinquish the state’s role in refugee resettlement to the federal government. Absent the state’s involvement, since 2016 the International Rescue Committee has had to run all aspects of the program in New Jersey.
Commissioner Johnson said Human Services is grateful to the International Rescue Committee for stepping in when needed and noted that the state will continue working collaboratively with the International Rescue Committee on the refugee resettlement program.
Human Services will lead as the official Refugee Coordinator and directly oversee the Refugee State Plan, the Refugee Health Program and the Refugee Medical Assistance Program that ensures refugees have the proper screenings and medical treatment needed.
The International Rescue Committee will coordinate with the state and continue to oversee the social supports programs, which includes English-language training and employment supports critical to successful resettlement.
“Despite the news that the Trump Administration intends to severely limit the number of new refugees our country will welcome in the year ahead, the Department of Human Services is ready to help every new New Jerseyan make our state a more vibrant, dynamic, and prosperous place to live and work,” said Commissioner Johnson. “The Murphy Administration is committed to building a fair and inclusive state for all.”
“America has a long history of providing refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution,” said Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira. “Welcoming refugees is part of our shared American tradition. We look forward to resuming our critical role in the resettlement process and, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and resettlement agencies across New Jersey, helping to welcome those seeking refuge and asylum. This is an important part of our commitment to immigrant and refugee integration in New Jersey.”
“International Rescue Committee is excited to see the State of New Jersey resuming its role to support the life-saving resettlement program, and unveiling the Office for New Americans,” said James Lenton, director of IRC’s New Jersey Office for Refugees. “With this announcement, Governor Murphy provides clear leadership based on the American values of welcome and inclusion.”
Human Services is also working with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to further immigrant and refugee integration, including the development of an Office of New Americans. This will be the first statewide office to focus on immigrant and refugee integration and will focus on ensuring access to social services, employment and inclusion in New Jersey’s economy.