Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to reject legislation that would essentially codify President Trump’s executive order targeting refugees fleeing violence and persecution, specifically those from Muslim-majority countries. The “Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act,” which is being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee today, comes days after the Supreme Court sent a mixed message on the Trump Administration’s executive order on refugees.
“Rather than ‘restoring integrity’ to our refugee system, this bill makes a mockery of the United States’ historic commitment to those who seek to live in freedom and safety,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley. “At a time when the world needs America’s leadership on refugees, this legislation would instead signal that we’ve given in to discrimination and intolerance.”
Today’s legislation would:
- Permanently reduce the number of refugee admissions by more than half of fiscal year 2017 levels, to 50,000 annually, the lowest refugee admissions goal in U.S. history;
- Place refugees resettled in the United States under continual surveillance;
- Preference religious minorities, and thus deny protection to vulnerable individuals who share a religion with the majority of their country’s population;
- Terminate refugee status if a refugee returns to their country of origin, which some do in order to rescue a family member from harm, see a sick or dying loved one, or advance human rights causes;
- Allow states and localities to veto resettlement on a whim, without taking into account community support; and,
- Triple the amount of time refugees have to wait before applying for lawful permanent residency, thus delaying refugees’ ability to reunite with family members and fully integrate.
Human Rights First also notes that today’s legislation would have a disproportionate impact on Muslim refugees from Muslim-majority nations, a move that would harm the United States’ national security. Former U.S. military leaders and national security officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations, urge that “Welcoming refugees, regardless of their religion or race, exposes the falseness of terrorist propaganda and counters the warped vision of extremists,” and that “religious bans and tests are un-American and have no place in our immigration and refugee policies.”
The legislation would also make it more difficult for Iraqis who are in danger due to their ties to the United States to be brought to safety through the U.S. resettlement program. More than 50,000 Iraqis are awaiting completion of their processing through a program established by Congress designed to protect those targeted due to their service for the United States. These include Iraqis who risked their lives working as translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, and in other dangerous roles for the U.S. military and government. These men and women face grave threats because of their work with the U.S. government, military, and other entities, and their close ties to Americans. This bill’s reduction in annual admissions and the prioritization of religious minorities would directly undermine this program and cause a chilling ripple effect on Iraqi Muslims who currently provide vital support to the U.S. government and military in the fight against the Islamic State.
Human Rights First recently released new data showing that in the 143 days since President Trump took office the number of refugees resettled to the United States has fallen by 61 percent when compared to the 143-day period prior to the inauguration. The number of refugees resettled from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, the seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in the president’s executive order, has however dropped by 69 percent. This reduction is 15 percent greater than the 54 percent decrease in resettlement from other countries. The rate of resettlement of Muslim refugees during this time fell by 68 percent, while resettlement rates fell by 55 percent for non-Muslim religious groups on average.