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Welcome Back Congress, You Have Work to Do

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Syrian children in a refugee camp in Suruc. These people are refugees from Kobane and fled because of an Islamic state attack.
Syrian children in a refugee camp in Suruc. These people are refugees from Kobane and fled because of an Islamic state attack.

Though the month of September marks the end of summer, it also points to the return of congressional action. We hope our Congressional representatives have returned from August recess refocused and reenergized so that attention is redirected towards those who need it most. Among the most vulnerable are Syrian refugees.

Over 4 million Syrians are currently living as refugees and we have all seen the haunting images of desperate Syrian refugees whose journey to safety lead instead to death. Although many Syrian refugees have managed to reach Europe, the majority of these men, women, and children lack the resources to undertake that costly and dangerous journey.

Reports indicate that after meeting with Members of Congress on September 9, the White House is actively contemplating admitting more Syrian refugees into the United States. As a leader in the world, the United States has a humanitarian duty to provide those escaping persecution the opportunity to seek safe haven. You can raise your voice now to tell President Obama we can and should do more to welcome Syrian refugees into our communities and congregations.

Refugees and immigrants are talented, hardworking members of our nation and it is time we recognize their incredible contributions. Supporting refugees and migrants benefits us all by strengthening the economy and our communities. We urge Congress to pass legislation that upholds our values of justice, freedom, and opportunity.

However, we are aware of several pending bills that would take steps backward. We ask that you look out for these pieces of legislation and encourage your representatives to oppose these harmful proposals. Three items to carefully watch in the weeks and months ahead are:

S.1814 “Stop Sanctuary Cities Act” introduced by Senator Vitter (R-LA)

  • Prevents cities from receiving certain federal law enforcement grants if they limit communication with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Heightens fear
  • Creates distrust between immigrants and local law enforcement
  • Watch for this bill to go to markup in the Senate Judiciary Committee early this fall

S.Res.104 “Operation Streamline” introduced by Senator Flake (R-AZ)

  • Scheduled for markup in late September
  • Does not deter unlawful immigration, as originally intended
  • Reduces access to asylum and due process at tremendous taxpayer cost
  • Increases federal criminal penalties for migrants and refugees apprehended crossing into the United States

Appropriations for FY16

While Congress is expected to quickly pass a short continuing resolution to keep the government operating after current funding expires September 30, longer term funding will undoubtedly be a hot topic later in the year. We will be monitoring the process for any attempts to negatively impact funding or programs for migrants and refugees.

We promise to keep you informed as Congress gets to work. Thank you for staying alert and ready for action, even during recess!

Sign up for our Stand for Welcome newsletter to receive updates on legislation, resources for advocacy, and action alerts.

Read here for more detailed information on refugee protection bills. For broader perspective, please visit our webpage on Refugee Resettlement.

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