Human Rights First Applauds Congress for Omitting Anti-Refugee Provisions from Omnibus Spending Bill

New York City – Human Rights First today praised the bipartisan effort to ensure that harmful provisions were not included in the omnibus spending package that would have derailed the resettlement of vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugee families, who are fleeing horrific violence stemming from years of conflict and terrorism in the region. The omnibus spending bill was introduced by the House Appropriations Committee and will likely come to a vote later this week.

“By omitting provisions seeking to limit assistance to refugees, Congress has taken an important step toward ensuring that our country remains a place where the world’s most vulnerable can find refuge and safety from horrific violence. Including the American SAFE Act in the omnibus package would have decimated U.S. resettlement initiatives and undermined U.S. national security interests globally, leaving vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugees at risk for years,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “ Many of these refugees have family in the United States, and some are in danger due to their support of U.S. efforts in Iraq. As faith leaders, former government officials, and national security experts have made clear, this country has a critical role to play in protecting persecuted refugees. Going forward, the administration and Congress should work together to see that American leadership in protecting refugees is strengthened and renewed.”

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of twenty of the nation’s top national security experts, former government officials, and former military leaders sent a letter to each Member of Congress expressing their opposition to anti-refugee proposals, making clear that “America can and should continue to provide refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution without compromising the security and safety of our nation. To do otherwise would be contrary to our nation’s traditions of openness and inclusivity, and would undermine our core objective of combating terrorism.”

Signatories of the letter include Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, Former Secretaries of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, Former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and Former CIA Directors General Michael Hayden, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) and General David Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.).

Human Rights First notes that under the current system, Syrian refugees are more rigorously vetted than any other group allowed entrance to the United States and undergo a multi-step series of background checks and security screening.

The proposals that were omitted from the final omnibus bill, including the the American SAFE Act, would have effectively shut down the resettlement of refugee families from Syria and Iraq by creating an unworkable requirement that the nation’s top national security officials personally “certify” each already fully vetted individual refugee’s case. They would also have further delayed the resettlement of Iraqis who are in danger due to their work with the U.S. government.

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over 60 million people displaced.  Over 4 million Syrians have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, and 7.6 million are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of these refugees have been stranded for years in neighboring countries where they cannot work or support their families, have little access to education, and lack the level of humanitarian assistance they need. Frontline states and key U.S. allies including Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan continue to host the majority of the approximately 4 million refugees who have fled Syria, struggling under the strain of hosting so many refugees.


Published on December 16, 2015


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