HIAS Statement to the House Judiciary Committee on HR 2826, “The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act”

Statement submitted to the Committee on the Judiciary of the

U.S. House of Representatives

 

Markup of HR2826, “The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act”

 

Hearing on June 14, 2017

 

HIAS, the American Jewish community's global organization engaged in refugee work, is deeply committed to preserving refugee resettlement program. HIAS believes that The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, HR2826, is just the latest legislative attempt to dismantle the refugee resettlement program, which over the course of history has shown its effectiveness in providing safety to refugees while vetting out those that seek to cause harm.

The U.S. Refugee Admission Program has been a critical humanitarian and diplomacy tool for over three decades. Now, with more than 65 million forcibly displaced people and over 21.3 million registered refugees globally, it more important than ever to preserve refugee resettlement in the United States. Refugee resettlement is a critical tool in providing humanitarian assistance because it provides the most vulnerable with an opportunity to reach safety and a new start. Resettlement also plays a critical role in alleviating the burden placed on host countries that open their borders to refugees. It is also in the national security interests of the U.S. to strengthen, not diminish, its efforts to resettle refugees. Welcoming refugees counteracts negative propaganda about the U.S. and helps to stabilize partners and allies.

HR2826 proposes to cap the number of refugees resettled to the United States to 50,000 per year, lower than any admissions goal in the history of the program. This arbitrary cap would undermine leadership the U.S. has traditionally shown on refugee resettlement, and does not reflect the global need for resettlement nor U.S. capacity to resettle refugees. The bill also prioritizes the resettlement of religious minorities above others in all circumstances. Both of these provisions would negatively impact U.S. foreign policy and the government’s ability to respond to new and evolving humanitarian crises.

The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act requires costly and unnecessary new procedures for the Department of Homeland Security. Section Eight requires every refugee seeking to obtain status as a legal permanent resident to undergo an interview with DHS. During the interview, the refugee would have to prove that he or she is still a refugee. Carrying out this requirement would create a huge strain on already stretched DHS resources. The cost is unnecessary, as refugees already have to prove they meet the definition before entering the United States and DHS has the authority to require an interview if needed. This section wastes resources and needlessly requires refugees to relive past trauma.

HR2826 sends a very strong message that refugees lawfully admitted to the U.S are not welcome here. The bill sends this message through a number of provisions. For example, Section Nine allows discrimination against refugees by restricting resettlement in states where the governor or state legislature has taken “action formally disapproving” of refugees (such action is undefined). The provision would lead to a patchwork of different refugee policies among and even within states, making it nearly impossible for the federal government to properly plan for the resettlement of refugees. Refugees have the freedom to move from state to state. Under this bill, refugees would lack access to services and support that are necessary to successful integration and self-sufficiency, depending on what state they are in.

The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would, for no good reason, simply make life harder for refugees who have already endured hardship and tragedy, losing homes, loved ones, and the lives they knew, and have met the rigorous requirements to be resettled in the U.S. The bill imposes expensive and unnecessary burdens on the Department of Homeland Security and undermines U.S. foreign policy and humanitarian aid objectives. The U.S. must continue to set the example for the rest of the world and use our resources and expertise to help the most vulnerable. HR2826 would run contrary to this goal.

Click here to see a HIAS-led letter signed by 128 organizations opposing H.R. 2826