All Senators Agree: U.S. Must Help Iraqi Refugees
WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Senate last night unanimously endorsed bipartisan legislation that will help bring Iraqi refugees – including those who are at risk because of their work for the United States – to safety in this country.
The legislation, offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense Reauthorization bill, was originally introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) and included 15 bipartisan cosponsors.
“The Senate has sent a clear message to the administration: protecting Iraqis — and those who have worked alongside the U.S. — is an American priority,” said Amelia Templeton, Iraqi Refugee Advocate for Human Rights First. Human Rights First mobilized more than 20,000 constituents to call and e-mail in support of the bill, and brought a delegation of Iraqi refugees to brief key Senate offices. “This tells Iraqis who have stood with the U.S. that this country will not abandon them to violence and persecution.”
Legislators expect the Kennedy-Smith amendment to remain on the defense authorization bill as it moves through final congressional passage and eventual approval by the White House. The legislation contains the following provisions:
- 5,000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Iraqis who worked directly with the U.S. government and are in danger;
- Direct access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (RAP) for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. government, contractors, NGOs, and media;
- Direct RAP access for designated Iraqi religious minorities with family in the United States;
- Protection or immediate removal from Iraq of SIV applicants who are in danger;
- A system that will allow Iraqi refugees to interview for resettlement in Iraq and in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt;
- New Minister Counselors in Iraq and throughout the region who will coordinate refugee processing.