Statement submitted to the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives
Mar 16, 2016
The U.S. Refugee Admission Program has been a critical humanitarian and diplomacy tool for over three decades. Now, with more than 60 million displaced people 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, our efforts to resettle refugees. Welcoming refugees counteracts negative propaganda about the U.S. and helps to stabilize partners and allies.
The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 4731) would significantly diminish the U.S. Refugee Admission Program and undermine the leadership the U.S. has traditionally shown on refugee resettlement. H.R. 4731 would interfere with the U.S.’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to humanitarian crises, create unnecessary and costly demands on the Department of Homeland Security, and send the message that refugees are not welcome. For these reasons, HIAS urges you to oppose H.R. 4731.
HIAS, the American Jewish community's global organization engaged in refugee work, is deeply committed to preserving refugee resettlement program. HIAS has been disheartened by attempts by Congress to pause or shut down refugee resettlement. The Jewish community’s concern was reflected in a letter signed by over 1,300 rabbis from across the country urging Congress to preserve the refugee resettlement program.
H.R. 4731 would negatively impact U.S. foreign policy and the government’s ability to respond to new and evolving humanitarian crises. Section Two proposes a permanent cap on refugee resettlement at 60,000. This number is arbitrary and does not reflect the global need for resettlement nor U.S. capacity to resettle refugees. The process proposed in the bill to adjust the 60,000 cap is overly burdensome and removes the flexibility in the current system. Section Four for the first time would prioritize the resettlement of religious minorities above others in all circumstances.
The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would require 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 because 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 is a waste of resources and needlessly requires refugees to relive past trauma.
H.R. 4731 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 would allow 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 refugee policy among and even within the states. This would make it nearly impossible for the federal government to plan for the resettlement of refugees. Refugees have the freedom to move from state to state. Under this bill, these refugees would simply lack access to services and support that are a necessary piece of successful integration and self-sufficiency.
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. H.R. 4731 would be contrary to this goal.