Wisconsin Senator Sponsors Aid to Immigrant and Refugee Communities

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SEATTLE, Washington — Unexploded devices of war continue to be an issue in countries that allied with the United States during times of war. Each day devices such as landmines are responsible for the injury of an average of 23 people per day globally. In 2016 alone, more than 8,000 people were injured or killed by undetonated explosives. Thousands of people in more than 60 countries live with the threat of losing a limb or their lives to these devices of war. On April 4, 2019, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin sponsored a bill that would provide aid to immigrant and refugee communities in countries that supported and defended the United States military.

Senator Tammy Baldwin has a history of sponsoring and supporting bills that relate to foreign aid. Baldwin supported the Peace Act of 2009, which provided economic aid to Pakistan. She also supported allocating $156 million to the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Trust Fund and $15.2 billion allocated for foreign operations to promote peace in the Middle East. Senator Baldwin co-sponsored a bill proposing a multi-year commitment to fund Africa with food and medicine. She also fought for the repeal of laws that violate women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Unexploded Devices in Laos

More than two million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War to attempt to prevent the military of Northern Vietnam from transporting supplies. Laos has tens of millions of unexploded devices left behind. In Laos, more than 20,000 people have been injured or killed by mines since the end of the Vietnam War. Close to one-third of Laos is covered with mines or other unexploded devices.

Over time bombs were buried and became a hazard to farmers when attempting to agriculturalize land in the affected areas. Many of the impacted farmers have no choice but to take the risk and continue to farm on the land they own despite knowing that they may encounter unexploded war devices. Devastating injuries such as loss of limbs, loss of hearing and loss of sight continue to be a threat to the citizens of Laos. There are around “80 million cluster munitions” that remain unexploded in Laos following the Vietnam War.

The Legacies of War Recognition and Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act

The Legacies of War Recognition and Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act would aid immigrant and refugee communities of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. These countries supported the United States during the conflict in Southeast Asia. Senator Tammy Baldwin recognizes the importance of partnership with our foreign allies. The act provides assistance to impacted countries, creating safer communities for U.S. allies.

The bill highlights the reasons why the United States should take responsibility and assist in resolving the many undetonated devices of war the conflict left behind. The United States is home to citizens from ally countries such as Hmong, Cham, Lao and Vietnam. These countries fought alongside United States soldiers during the Vietnam War. The bill highlights key partnerships such as providing food and shelter to United States soldiers and providing information on enemy strategies during the Vietnam War.

The Importance of Clearing Unexploded Devices

The fighting in Southeast Asia left behind unexploded devices that are deadly to these immigrant and refugee communities. The devices are present in forests, school grounds, rice fields, roads and other main areas of these communities. The presence of explosive devices hinders the ability of the areas to develop and reduce poverty. The United States is currently the leader in providing aid for immigrant and refugee communities regarding the detonation of unexploded devices. The U.S. has spent more than $3.7 billion since 1993.

  • Aid to the immigrant and refugee communities in Vietnam would assist in the safe removal of the unexploded contaminants. Around 800,000 tons of unexploded devices of war were left behind in Vietnam alone. More than 100,000 people have died due to these unexploded devices. At least 40,0000 of these were civilian deaths.
  • The bill would also provide aid to immigrant and refugee communities in Cambodia. Since 1979, unexploded devices have killed or injured more than 64,000 Cambodian citizens. This is an average of one incident a week. Cambodia has one of the highest death and injury rates due to the devices.

Where the Act Is Now

The Committee on Foreign Affairs reviewed H.R.2097: The Legacies of War Recognition and Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act on July 17, 2019. There, it was ordered to be reported by unanimous consent. The Committee then introduced the bill to the U.S. Senate under S.4686 on September 24, 2020. If passed the bill will authorize appropriations of $1 billion per year from 2021 to 2025. It will supply aid to immigrant and refugee communities impacted by unexploded devices of war.

Carolyn Lyrenmann
Photo: Flickr

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