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World Refugee Day

Today, to mark World Refugee Day, 28 of the nation’s most prominent national security leaders, retired generals and admirals, 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. Signers of today’s open statement organized by Human Rights First include: Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff; Former Secretary of Defense and U.S. Senator William S. Cohen; Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Former Director of the CIA General Michael V. Hayden, U.S. Air Force (Ret.); Former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael E. Leiter; Former U.S. Senator Carl M. Levin; Former Commander of U.S. Army Europe General David M. Maddox, U.S. Army (Ret.); Former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew G. Olsen; Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry; Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James G. Stavridis, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Former Homeland Security Advisor Frances F. Townsend; and many others.

World Refugee Day is a time to celebrate the courageous spirit of refugees and the inspiring dedication of those committed to helping them. Human Rights First is marking the occasion with a weeklong series of events. In New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, the organization will host receptions honoring refugees and the efforts of the pro-bono lawyers, paralegals, and interpreters who work closely with Human Rights First to help refugees secure a safer, brighter future in the United States. In addition, in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, and San Francisco, Veterans for American Ideals—a project of Human Rights First—will host interactive discussions featuring refugees and veterans. Veterans have a particular interest in helping refugees, especially the thousands of interpreters, translators, and allies who served with the U.S. military and are today endangered due to their affiliation with the United States. For more information on World Refugee Day events and to RSVP, see our events page.

Family Detention

Two years ago today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to significantly increase its capacity to detain parents and children arriving at the southern border, the vast majority of whom were seeking asylum. The move was to “deter others from taking the dangerous journey and illegally crossing into the United States.” Since then, a number of courts and government agencies have issued decisions recognizing that family detention facilities are not childcare centers and violate various provisions of law that apply to holding immigrant children in custody. A motion to enforce was recently filed in a California district court featuring new evidence that DHS continues to violate the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, which governs standards for the detention, release, and treatment of minors in immigration custody. A Texas judge issued a temporary injunction stating that the Dilley, Texas facility cannot be issued a childcare license until after a September hearing, which will determine whether the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has the authority to do so. In addition to legal questions surrounding these facilities, a growing body of medical literature has found that detention is harmful to children’s health. Community-based alternatives to detention have been proven to support appearance at hearings, while also providing families with social supports, when needed. . Human Rights First’s new fact sheet “World Refugee Day 2016: Family Detention at Two Years” provides recommendations for how the Obama Administration can better protect refugees and end harmful, unnecessary family detention.


Following last week’s passage in the Senate of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Human Rights First urged President Obama to veto the bill if its final version includes provisions that would make it impossible to close Guantanamo by the end of his term in office. The NDAA will now go to conference to reconcile any differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill. Both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA currently extend unnecessary bans on transferring detainees to the United States until after President Obama leaves office. The bills also extend country-specific transfer bans, with the Senate version expanding the number of prohibited locations. Both bills include cumbersome overseas transfer restrictions that make it more difficult, but not impossible, for the administration to transfer detainees.

Quote of the Week

“Moreover, as everyone here is well aware, refugees strengthen and enrich our nation in countless ways.  In some cases, they strengthen us quite literally, as brave men and women wearing the uniform of our armed forces.  But refugees also contribute as doctors, teachers, lawyers, and engineers.  Whether it’s Albert Einstein or Madeleine Albright, Marc Chagall or former Intel CEO Andy Grove—or millions of unheralded but indispensable members of our society—refugees come here determined to apply their talents and build a better future for themselves and their families…from New York to Miami to Kansas City, refugees enrich this nation culturally through their cuisine, dance, literature and language.  And throughout American history, that diversity has always been a source of strength.”

—Deputy National Security Advisor Avril Haines Commemorating World Refugee Day at a June 14 event held by Human Rights First

We’re Listening To

Released globally today for World Refugee Day, Grammy award-winning singer Gregory Porter and Academy award-winning rapper and actor Common collaborated to record a song called “Running.” Hear the song at

We’re Watching

Human Rights First recently released a new video entitled, “A Father’s Gratitude – Mohammed and Lou Lou’s Story,” a moving account of a father’s love for his daughter and his efforts to gain asylum for his family.

We’re Reading

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright writes in TIME that America should send a strong message to the world in support of refugees.

NPR discussed the extensive vetting process undertaken by the United States for Syrian refugees and misperceptions of that process during the election cycle.

The Washington Free Beacon writes on the stalled efforts to provide visas for Afghans who supported U.S. military operations as translators and interpreters. Because of their work with the United States, many of their lives are in danger.

On the Hill

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Senate Foreign Relations will hold a closed hearing entitled, “Security Assistance: Cutting through a Tangled Web of Authorities.” Presiding: Senator Corker. Time: 10:30 AM, Location: SVC-217.

Around Town

Tuesday June 21, 2016

U.S. Institute of Peace will hold a discussion entitled, “Frontline Diplomats and Development Workers.” The discussion will feature Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom. 9:30 AM-12:00 PM. U.S. Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. N.W.

CSIS will hold discussion entitled, “Transatlantic Policy on Economic Sanctions: Promises and Pitfalls.” 10:00-11:30 AM, CSIS Headquarters

The Atlantic Council will hold an event on Ukraine’s Humanitarian Crisis. The event will feature remarks by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). 10:30 AM-2:45 PM (2 panels with lunch break), Atlantic Council, 1030 15th St N.W.

Wednesday June 22, 2016

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion entitled, “The Problems with Minsk and Corruption: How to Help Ukraine.” 3:00-5:00 (two panels), 1030 15th St N.W.

Thursday June 23, 2016

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice will hold a book discussion entitled, “The Protection of Civilians: The Critical Challenge of our Times.” 5:00-7:00 PM
Lester Pollack Colloquium, Furman Hall 9th Floor, 245 Sullivan St.

Open Society Foundation will hold a discussion, “Talking about Race: Confronting the New Wave of Islamophobia.” The discussion will feature remarks by Deepa Iyer, senior fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion; Kameelah Rashad, chaplain at University of Pennsylvania; Tariq Toure, activist and author; and Amardeep Singh, program officer for the Open Society National Security and Human Rights Campaign. 7:00-9:00 PM, Turpin-Lamb Theatre, Murphy Fine Arts Center, Morgan State University, Argonne Drive, Baltimore, Maryland.

Friday June 24, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold the ‘My Story’ Book Launch with Andrei Sannikov, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. 10:00-11:30 AM, CSIS Headquarters, Washington D.C