(Washington, D.C.) March 17, 2016 — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA joined the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Church World Service, Oxfam America and more than 230 other organizations in writing a letter to ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee opposing the so-called “Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016.”
The text of the letter follows
Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers:
The undersigned 234 organizations strongly oppose H.R. 4731, the “Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016.” This proposed legislation would dismantle the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which has been a critical humanitarian and diplomacy tool for over three decades. With more than 60 million refugees and displaced people around the world, it is critically important that the U.S. demonstrates global leadership by welcoming refugees. Enacting legislation that would send the message that refugees are not welcome here is a sharp departure from our nation’s character as a beacon of freedom and our history as a country founded by refugees and immigrants.
This Act would hinder U.S. foreign policy objectives and undermine humanitarian assistance. It proposes to cap the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. at 60,000 per year, despite the President’s determination that 85,000 should be admitted in Fiscal Year 2016. Importantly, it would take away the President’s authority to set the number of refugees who may enter the country per year.
H.R. 4731 would require the U.S. to prioritize resettlement of religious minorities above all other refugees, including those who fear persecution based on their race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. It also undermines the integrity of the program, which resettles refugees based on vulnerability, not a hierarchy of human rights.
This Act would allow state and local governments to “veto” refugee resettlement in their communities, opening the door for discrimination against refugees; it is also potentially an unconstitutional delegation of federal power, creating a patchwork of refugee policies across the country. This outcome would be detrimental both to refugees' successful integration and to communities receiving them.
H.R. 4731 would further allow refugees to be placed under continual surveillance after their arrival, which would codify discrimination against refugees and raise serious privacy concerns. The current vetting process for refugees is incredibly rigorous and includes screening by U.S. federal law enforcement and national security agencies. It is simply un-American to treat persecuted individuals, who want nothing more than to start a new life in safe and welcoming communities, as criminals.
The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would automatically revoke the refugee status of any refugee who returns to his or her country of origin. Sometimes refugees risk their lives to return home to see a dying or sick loved one for the last time. These individuals, who have endured such trauma and still risk their own safety to care for loved ones, should not be in fear of having their protection revoked due to traveling home.
Furthermore, H.R. 4731 creates unnecessary and expensive burdens on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The legislation would require an interview with DHS before a refugee can adjust to lawful permanent residency in the U.S. and would require refugees to provide evidence that they still meet the refugee definition at the time of adjustment. DHS already has the authority to require such an interview when it determines one is needed. The time and money that would be required to implement these changes can be more responsibly spent.
The Act also imposes redundant anti-fraud measures that would create additional costs for DHS and life-threatening delays in the resettlement process for refugee applicants. The U.S. refugee program already has abundant security measures to safeguard our nation’s security.
Finally, the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would establish undue hardship on refugees by delaying their ability to adjust to lawful permanent resident status from one year, under current law, to three years. This would be extremely counterproductive to refugee integration, employment, and self-sufficiency.
This Act would punish vulnerable refugees because it would make the process more complicated and create further delays, when refugees are already the most vetted people to come to the U.S. Passage of this Act would also send a message that refugees who have survived years of persecution and trauma and who are already woven into the fabric of U.S. communities are not welcome here. We oppose H.R. 4731 so that we may continue our country’s proud tradition of protecting and welcoming vulnerable and persecuted people from around the world.
Thank you for your consideration to this very important matter.
Please view the attached PDF to see all signatories