U.S. must stay on course to admit Syrian refugees, not cave to xenophobic fear mongering
Advancing Justice submits statement to Congress in support of admitting Syrian Refugees
WASHINGTON – Asian Americans Advancing Justice today submitted written statements to both the U.S. House Judiciaryand U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committees in support of the United States admitting Syrian refugees.
The United States’ willingness to accept 10,000 new Syrian refugees, which is far fewer compared to the number other countries have admitted, is being met with brutal backlash since the attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad. Twitter feeds and news reports have blamed Syrian refugees, while governors from more than a dozen states say they won’t help resettle Syrian refugees in their states.
“These attempts to shut out Syrian refugees are based on fear and prejudice, not legitimate concerns of national security,” said President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Mee Moua, who is a political refugee herself. “Instead of viewing Syrian and other refugees as the ‘enemy,’ Americans should open their hearts and recognize that refugees are no burden, but in fact, have made and continue to make America better and stronger.”
The Advancing Justice congressional statement points out that the refugee resettlement program is already the most difficult way to enter the United States, routinely taking individuals several years to be processed. It also notes that Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian individuals face an even more “rigorous standard in terms of the United States’ immigration practices, as exhibited by the 2002 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program, which required only male visa-holders over the age of 16 from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries to register with local immigration offices.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.
ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE – LOS ANGELES CONDEMNS HOUSE VOTE TO EXCLUDE SYRIAN AND IRAQI REFUGEES
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles condemns the ignorance, as well as the xenophobia and Islamaphobia, underlying today’s House vote to block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States,” said Karin Wang, Vice-President of Programs and Communications for Advancing Justice-LA. “We are extremely disappointed that in this hour of great need, our elected officials in Washington choose fear over compassion and we urge the Senate and President to ensure that the United States continues to welcome those seeking refuge.”
The U.S. Senate will determine whether to take the bill up after Thanksgiving. President Obama says he will veto the legislation. However, Congress can override his veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives exceeded the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto in that chamber.
CAPAC Leaders on Syrian and Iraqi Refugee Legislation
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 289-137 to pass H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015. This bill adds new certification requirements to the existing refugee admissions process, including requirements that the FBI Director, the Homeland Security Secretary, and the National Intelligence Director concur on the approval of each refugee admitted from Iraq and Syria. CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) and CAPAC Chair Emeritus Rep. Michael Honda (CA-17) released the following statements:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:
“The terrorist attacks in Paris were horrifying. Our thoughts are with the victims and all of France as we are reminded of our own need to ensure the safety of our cities and people. But this bill is not the solution. We must stop using fear tactics as a means to enact bad policy.
“The reality is that we already have in place one of the strictest refugee policies in the world. It takes up to two years of multiple in-person interviews, background checks, and interagency cooperation before a refugee is allowed into the U.S. This process, thanks to the hard work of our intelligence and security communities, is and has been successful at weeding out threats. And that is why the vast majority of refugees admitted are widows, orphans, and victims of torture.
“It would be wrong from a moral and a security standpoint to abandon them in refugee camps where they are subject to violence or radicalization. I agree that we need a serious plan to confront the threat of ISIS, but that should not begin with attacks on frightened and vulnerable women and children. Closing our borders to refugees is a mistake and a violation of our country’s values.”
Congressman Michael Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:
“Today, we have people fleeing violence and persecution in the Middle East, Central America, Asia, and Africa who are counting on the United States to stay true to its values of humanity, compassion, and religious freedom. I opposed the U.S. SAFE Act because it upends our existing rigorous refugee process and slams the door in the face of the very people fleeing ISIL and its atrocities. It is during times of peril that we must remember the lessons we have learned and stay anchored to our Constitution. It is what makes our Nation great.
“We need only look to the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to see how fear-based decisions can leave a lasting dark spot on our proud history. We cannot repeat our mistakes born from racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. Now is the time to uphold the legacy of the United States as a country founded by immigrants and people seeking freedom and liberty.”
“As a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, I am extremely disappointed with our lawmakers’ decision to succumb to the irrational fear and intolerance directed toward this new refugee community,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “My parents, like the more than 1.3 million Southeast Asian Americans who were resettled in this nation, were forced from their homes as a result of mass genocide and persecution 40 years ago. When our nation passed executive orders and the Refugee Act of 1980, our nation upheld our responsibility to resettle refugees in crises that were created by American forces and factors. Today, I am devastated to see our lawmakers attack our legacy as a humane global nation in escalating destructive policies like H.R. 4038, which undermines our country’s values of dignity, safe haven, and opportunity for all.”
The perpetrators of the Paris attack were ISIL radicals with European citizenship, not refugees. As many as 3,000 European extremists have traveled to Syria to join the ranks of ISIL. In fact, the ISIL mastermind behind the Paris attack who was killed by French authorities, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was a Belgian citizen, not a refugee from Syria or Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. visa waiver program allows unrestricted access to the U.S. from the European Union which is an open door for European extremists not on a watch list to enter our country. In my view, this is where the real reform and intelligence sharing must be strengthened.
The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (H.R. 4038) is a Republican ploy that is cruel, callous, and a blatant display of xenophobia used to energize a political base that is motivated by a hatred of immigrants. This legislation is not designed to protect our national security interests, but rather will be used as a political weapon to attack Democrats who still believe our nation should be a safe haven for vulnerable people seeking freedom from persecution and the treat of death.
I support resettling refugees in the U.S. and I have always welcomed them to Minnesota. The most modern identification technology and intelligence background checks need to be utilized in the resettlement security process. That means this Republican Congress must act responsibly and provide the necessary funding for such a comprehensive screening protocol. I support appropriating full funding for these strict protocols.
ISIL is a global scourge that must be eradicated. Keeping America safe and eliminating ISIL will require intelligence, military, and counter-terrorism coordination between the U.S. and all allies. Unfortunately, H.R. 4038 is an transparent effort to scapegoat Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have suffered immeasurably, but clearly not enough for some of my colleagues. I reject this Republican bill as another example of driving a political agenda based on willful ignorance in the face of a serious terrorist threat.
Statement of Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, on the U.S. House passage of the McCaul Refugee bill
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on legislation to halt Syrian and Iraqi refugees, victims themselves of ISIS, from being resettled in the United States.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, issued the following statement:
“Today is a dark mark in our nation’s history. Asian Americans know first-hand from the Japanese American Internment the damage that comes when we let unfounded and irrational fears drive national security. We cannot let fear and prejudice blind us and dismantle the founding values of this nation of immigrants. For those of us who are refugees, this is a country of hope and opportunity. Today, we are moving too quickly to deny a safe haven to those who need it most.”
The U.S. Senate will determine whether to take the bill up after Thanksgiving. President Obama says he will veto the legislation. Congress can override his veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding the Syrian/Iraqi Refugee Crisis and House Republican legislation (H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies [SAFE] Act of 2015) to “pause” admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.