World Relief Opposes HR 4038

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Date: 19 November 2015

World Relief Opposes H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act

“The passing of H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act is a major step back for our U.S. refugee program. Refugee admission already includes the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States. The goal of the U.S. refugee program has always been to accept refugees based on vulnerability and not to discriminate against any particular nationality. It should remain this way. We need to continue to welcome refugees into our country.”

Stephan Bauman, World Relief

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would create an extra layer of certification in order for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to the United States in addition to reporting requirements.

World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is strongly against this legislation and urges the United States to continue to welcome and protect Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

For 30 years, World Relief has partnered with local churches to resettle over 260,000 refugees to the United States. Since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees – three quarters of a million entered the U.S. since 2001 alone.

“The refugee resettlement program is a life-saving program that has helped millions of those who have fled persecution start their lives anew in a place of safety. At a time when the U.S. needs to show humanitarian leadership, it would be a mistake to effectively shut down a program that has saved millions of lives,” said Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “It is vital to maintain the integrity of this program by accepting the most vulnerable refugees, not excluding anyone based on their nationality or religion.”

World Relief strongly opposed H.R. 4038- The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act 2015 due to the following reasons:

  1. H.R. 4038 creates a bureaucratic review process that could take years to implement and would effectively shut down refugee resettlement. The bill requires the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of National Intelligence for each individual refugee. The certification process will have to be created and agreed upon by heads of each agency and could take years to establish, stalling out the refugee program in the meantime. Under this scenario, refugee populations would continue to swell, languishing in camps and dangerous situations, and Syrian Americans would not be able to reunite with their family members. The ramifications for international refugee protection and U.S. foreign policy interests in the region would be costly.
  2. The process, once established, would add months or years to the security screening process, which is already the lengthiest and most robust in the world, routinely taking between 18 and 36 months. In addition to obtaining approval from three heads of federal agencies for each refugee, the bill requires reporting to thirteen congressional committees on each refugee that is considered for resettlement. This is unreasonably burdensome and will effectively end the program. Furthermore, for reasons of security and safety, security and medical clearances are only valid for limited periods of time. During the certification process, these clearances will expire. This will mean that refugees will be caught in an un-ending loop of security clearances.
  3. Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country. All refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving in the United States, including but not limited to multiple biographic and identity investigations; FBI biometric checks of applicants' fingerprints and photographs; in-depth, in-person interviews by well- trained Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings; investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center; and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies. Supervisory review of all decisions; random case assignment; inter-agency national security teams; trained document experts; forensic testing of documents; and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Due to technological advances, Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process.
  4. The bill is a waste of resources. Funds used to establish and run this certification process would be better used in conducting actual security reviews of refugees and others who are vetted by these agencies.
  5. The bill is a pretext and requires differential treatment of refugees from Syria and Iraq without providing a justification for the additional verification. This would effectively stop refugees from two countries long beset by internal conflict, including refugees who have been in neither Syria nor Iraq for years.

To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation's core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism would seek to send.

www.worldrelief.org

www.wewelcomerefugees.com

Contact: Jenny Yang // jyang@wr.org // 443.527.8363