Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), senior member of the House Judiciary Committee delivered the following statement at a markup of H.R. 4731, The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act. During a time of unprecedented international turmoil and conflict, this bill would gut the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Among its most damaging provisions—which Congressman Nadler offered an amendment to strike from the bill—is a restriction on the number of refugees the United States can take in to only 60,000. By limiting the president to this already meager number, the Act would tie the President’s hands to flexibly respond to changing international circumstances and prevent us from fulfilling our moral obligations to address humanitarian disasters around the world.
“The United States has always been, and should always be, a place of refuge,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “We should not revisit the shameful policies of the past, and we must not be guided by irrational fear. In fact, I would remind some people that America is already great. And one reason it is great is that we extend a hand to those in need. We have a moral obligation to help the most desperate among us but this legislation would force us to turn our backs on those who need our protection.”
Below is the full text of Congressman Nadler’s statement.
“Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
“Mr. Chairman, my amendment would address just one of the many mean-spirited and irresponsible provisions in this bill. My amendment would remove the bill’s hard cap on refugees who may be admitted into the United States each year, and would preserve the President’s discretion to set an annual cap and to respond to emergency situations.
“Under current law, the President determines the annual cap on refugees, which stands at 85,000 today. Many people believe this figure is already too low, given the humanitarian crises unfolding in Syria and in Central America. But this legislation would further reduce the cap by almost a third, to just 60,000 refugees a year.
“It would also remove the discretion and flexibility the President currently has to adjust the cap as circumstances warrant. It would fix into law the 60,000 person cap, regardless of international events, regardless of any crisis that may occur, and would allow the President merely to recommend an increase to Congress, provided it is done at least six months before the start of a fiscal year.
“Should an emergency refugee situation arise, current law provides the President flexibility to respond to this crisis. But under this legislation, even if there is an emergency, the President’s hands would be tied, and he or she could only recommend an increase to Congress.
“Furthermore, the bill provides no process for Congress to act on the President’s recommendations, or even a guarantee that it will ever act or vote at all. This amendment would strike these harsh and unnecessary provisions from the bill and would retain current law.
“The United States has always been, and should always be, a place of refuge. Across the globe, people are fleeing unspeakable violence, persecution, terror, sexual slavery, and torture. There are as many as 60 million refugees world-wide today, more than at any time since World War II, but this bill would have us shrink our commitment to those most in need. What sort of example would we set for the world when nations with much smaller populations are taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees while we slash our assistance?
“The unspoken assumption behind this bill is that refugees are a danger and a drain on our society, despite clear evidence to the contrary. We’ve been down this path before, Mr. Chairman. In 1924, a racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic Congress passed legislation slamming the door shut on Jewish, Italian, Greek, and Eastern European immigrants. The Almanac of American Politics has said that, if it weren’t for the 1924 Immigration Act, perhaps 2 million of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust would have been living safely in the United States instead.
“We should not revisit the shameful policies of the past, and we must not be guided by irrational fear. We should not fall for demagogues who would have us build a wall and shut our doors to immigrants. I would remind some people that America is already great. And one reason it is great is that we extend a hand to those most in need. We have a moral obligation to help the most desperate among us, but this legislation would force us to turn our backs on those who need our protection.
“Throughout the world, millions of innocent people are being subjected to violence, slavery, sexual abuse, and persecution -- conditions we could not imagine in our worst nightmares. They seek the safety of our shores so they can build a new life for themselves and for their families. If anything, we should be welcoming more refugees to our country, rather than reducing the cap, as this bill would do. In 1948, we passed legislation in the aftermath of World War II to admit an immediate quarter of a million refugees. Now we’re saying that 85,000, which is what the President says it should be, is too much and we want to put a statutory bar of 60,000. For shame.
“This amendment would at least preserve the status quo. I urge its adoption and I yield back the balance of my time.”