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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro, Meeks Call on Secretary Tillerson to Exempt Rangel and Pickering Fellows from State Department Hiring Freeze

Jun 15, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressmen Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Gregory Meeks (NY-05), both members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging the Secretary to issue waivers for graduating Rangel and Pickering fellows’ appointment to the State Department Foreign Service despite the Department’s hiring freeze. Last week, the State Department contacted the most recent graduating class of Rangel and Pickering fellows to inform them that, due to the State Department’s hiring freeze, they would have to choose by June 16 either indefinite unemployment or a non-career track, temporary position. The Rangel and Pickering fellowship programs prepare outstanding students from historically underrepresented groups for careers as U.S. diplomats. 
 
“A capable and diverse diplomatic corps is essential for advancing U.S. interests overseas, promoting peace, and strengthening our national security. After investing financially in Rangel and Pickering fellows and assuring them positions in the Foreign Service, reneging on that promise now would waste both taxpayer dollars and uniquely specialized talent,” said Rep. Castro. “As the Trump Administration’s extreme proposed cuts to the State Department’s budget threaten to hinder our diplomatic efforts around the world, exempting these young people from the agency’s hiring freeze would be a positive and practical decision for Secretary Tillerson to make.”
 
On average, the U.S. government invests $85,000 in each Rangel and Pickering fellow through financing for undergraduate and graduate education programs as well as professional development support through activities such as paid internships. Additionally, the U.S. government invests tens of thousands of dollars into security clearances for each fellow. Upon successful completion of these programs, fellows normally begin careers in the Foreign Service. Last year, Congress authorized an additional 10 positions for each program.
 
“Now more than ever, the United States needs skillful diplomats to help navigate the global challenges we face. For over two decades, the Rangel, Pickering, and Payne programs have strengthened our diplomatic core by promoting diversity in its ranks,” Rep. Meeks said. “The State Department shouldn’t go back on its promise to these dedicated individuals, for we need their unique perspectives to best promote the United States’ interests abroad.”
 
The letter also urges Secretary Tillerson to continue the induction of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Payne fellows into the USAID Foreign Service without interruption. Last year, Congress authorized an additional five positions for the Payne fellowship.
 
Text of the letter – signed by a total of 31 members – is included below. 
 

[BEGIN LETTER TEXT]

The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We understand the State Department last week contacted the most recent graduating class of Rangel and Pickering fellows to inform them that, due to the State Department’s hiring freeze, instead of joining the Foreign Service, they would have to choose by the end of the week either indefinite unemployment or a non-career track, temporary position.  Given the substantial investments the U.S. government has made to prepare these fellows for careers in diplomacy, we urge you to issue waivers to accommodate their immediate appointment to the State Department Foreign Service. Recognizing that USAID Payne fellows may face a similar situation, we urge you to continue their induction into the USAID Foreign Service without interruption.  

Congress explicitly authorized these programs to improve diversity in the Foreign Service, and authorized their expansion in the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of State Authorities Act.  There is substantial bipartisan and bicameral support for these fellowships and the talented young people who earn them.  The new employment option the State Department is providing graduating fellows is a temporary consular position, which does not meet Congressional intent.   

The Rangel, Pickering, and Payne fellowship programs prepare outstanding students from historically underrepresented groups for careers as U.S. diplomats.  Combined, these programs facilitate the hiring and training of fewer than 100 exceptionally-qualified candidates per class.  In exchange for a five-year service commitment, the U.S. government invests an average of $85,000 in each fellow.  This investment includes financing for undergraduate and graduate education programs as well as professional development support through activities such as paid internships.  Upon graduation, fellows begin a rewarding and challenging career in the Foreign Service.  Instead, this year’s class of fellows faces uncertainty about their future and immediate employment. 

Again, we urge you to proceed immediately with issuing waivers to accommodate the induction of pending Rangel and Pickering fellows into the State Department Foreign Service in alignment with Congressional intent.  We also urge you to continue the induction process for Payne Fellows into the USAID Foreign Service without interruption.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
                                                 
Joaquin Castro                                               
Member of Congress

Gregory Meeks
Member of Congress
                                    
Eliot Engel                                                     
Member of Congress

Alcee Hastings
Member of Congress
                        
John Lewis                                                     
Member of Congress

Albio Sires
Member of Congress
                                           
William R. Keating                                        
Member of Congress

Ami Bera
Member of Congress
                                 
Gerald E. Connolly                                        
Member of Congress

Colleen Hanabusa
Member of Congress
                                          
Adriano Espaillat                                           
Member of Congress

Norma Torres
Member of Congress
              
Adam Smith                                                   
Member of Congress

Robin Kelly
Member of Congress
                                      
Yvette D. Clarke                                            
Member of Congress

Donald M. Payne, Jr.
Member of Congress
                                                
Gwen Moore                                                  
Member of Congress

Alan Lowenthal
Member of Congress
               
Barbara Lee                                                    
Member of Congress

Darren Soto
Member of Congress
                                        
Keith Ellison                                                  
Member of Congress

Dwight Evans
Member of Congress
                                               
Sheila Jackson Lee                                          
Member of Congress

Ted Deutch
Member of Congress
                        
Karen Bass                                                      
Member of Congress

José E. Serrano
Member of Congress
                                                       
Cedric L. Richmond                                                   
Member of Congress   

Val B. Demings          
Member of Congress
                                           
Adam B. Schiff                                                          
Member of Congress

Marcia L. Fudge                     
Member of Congress

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Member of Congress

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