House Should Reject Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that Diminishes Refugee Protection

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urges members of the House of Representatives to reject the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017, as it would diminish the United States’ ability to lead globally on refugee protection.

“If gone into effect, the proposed funding cuts in today’s legislation would severely undermine the United States’ efforts to resettle the nearly one hundred thousand refugees, including Syrians who are fleeing violence and persecution,” said Human Rights First’s Jennifer Quigley.

The legislation marked up by the House Committee on Appropriations today would drastically cut funds for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and reduce resources to serve refugees resettled in the United States. Human Rights First notes that resettlement is one of the key ways that the United States can lead by example and encourage other countries to help refugees.

President Obama committed to resettling one hundred thousand refugees in 2017, an increase from 85,000 in 2016. Human Rights First has urged the Obama Administration to increase the pace of its resettlement of Syrian refugees to demonstrate its commitment to solving the global refugee crisis.

The U.S. pledge to resettle at least ten thousand Syrian refugees this fiscal year amounts to only about two percent of the 480,000 Syrian refugees in need of resettlement, and just 0.2 percent of the overall Syrian refugee population of over 4.8 million in the region around Syria. The large majority of these refugees have fled to neighboring states including Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, straining these countries’ infrastructures and threatening regional stability. Today’s legislation would adversely impact national security by failing to help with the burden-sharing of U.S. partners in the region, who have accepted the overwhelming majority of refugees from the Syrian crisis.

National security experts have explained that U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees advances U.S. national security interests and would protect the stability of important U.S. allies in the region, as detailed in Human Rights First’s February report, “The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership.” A December 2015 letter from a bipartisan group of 20 former U.S. national security advisors, CIA directors, secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security confirms this national security interest and that Syrian refugees are vetted more intensively than any other traveler to the United States.

“To lead by example, the United States should increase its pace of refugee resettlement and demonstrate its support for frontline countries,” noted Quigley. “Cutting funds for refugee resettlement is the opposite; it is an abdication of the United States’ role as a haven for the persecuted.”

Last month, to mark World Refugee Day, more than 30 of the nation’s most prominent national security leaders, retired military leaders, and former government officials publicly called on the United States to reaffirm its commitment to protecting refugees. The call came through a signed statement of principles organized by Human Rights First, affirming the importance of refugee resettlement for advancing U.S. national security interests and upholding American values. “As we ensure the safety of our own citizens, we should recognize that refugees serve as a source of national renewal. Fleeing horrors today, they will tomorrow emerge as patriotic citizens who give back to the country that welcomed them in their time of desperation,” wrote the signers of the statement.

For more information or to speak with Quigley contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.


Published on July 12, 2016


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