Rep. Labrador is Wrong: His Bill Would Leave Iraqi Allies Stranded
By Andrea Gillespie
Yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 2826), Representative Labrador (R-ID), the bill’s author, made a false statement about refugee resettlement for our Iraqi allies and rejected efforts to protect them, threatening the safety of people who risked their lives to serve the United States.
During the hearing, Representative Lieu (D-CA) sought to ensure that one provision of the so-called Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, which seeks to dismantle the resettlement program and codifies the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban into law, would protect Iraqi allies.
A military veteran, Lieu proposed reserving an additional 25,000 spaces in the admissions program for Iraqis who enter the United States under the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act. Passed in 2009, this bipartisan legislation ensured that Iraqi nationals—who risked their lives as translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, and in other supportive roles to the U.S. military and government—could seek protection in the United States after receiving death threats for their service.
In opposition to Representative Lieu’s proposed amendment, Representative Labrador declared, “We have given special preferences to Iraqi interpreters.” Labrador continued: “In fact, not only do we include them in the refugee program, but we have a special immigrant visa that allows them to come. And those numbers are increased almost every year in the NDAA and in other vehicles, and so I don’t think this is necessary, and for that reason I oppose the amendment.”
Labrador’s statement conflates the Afghan SIV program with the Iraqi SIV program. This mistake threatens the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. affiliated Iraqis.
The Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act did create a special immigrant visa (SIV) program, but it expired and no longer accepted applications from Iraqis after September 30, 2014. As of March 2017, there are well under 1,000 special immigrant visas left for Iraqis.
Left without the Iraqi SIV program, Iraqi allies can now only enter the United States in one way: direct access—a priority 2 (P2) category—to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. With more than 50,000 Iraqis already awaiting processing through this program, the Labrador’s bill reduces annual admissions to a historic low of 50,000 and prioritizes religious minorities, thereby drastically undermining our Iraqi allies’ opportunities to receive access to life-saving resettlement.
Labrador’s remarks and rejection of Lieu’s amendment reveal a cold truth: our Iraqi allies will not be protected if Congress passes H.R. 2826.