Rep. Nadler: The United States Has a Moral Obligation to Help the Most Desperate Among the World’s Refugees

Jun 28, 2017 Issues: Civil Liberties, Foreign Affairs/Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, offered an amendment during the committee’s markup of H.R. 2826, The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act. Rep. Nadler’s amendment removes the bill’s 50,000 person cap on refugees who may be admitted into the United States, and preserves the President’s discretion to adjust the annual cap in order to respond to humanitarian crises and emergency situations, which H.R. 2826 eliminates.

“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 that 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,” said Congressman Nalder. “Granted, President Trump has sought a cap of 50,000 refugees. That is his decision – as cruel and as unwise as it may be. But we will not always have a President who demonizes refugees and who treats them as dangerous criminals to be feared. One day, we will once again have a President who is guided by reason and compassion, and we should not tie his or her hands by giving in to the politics of fear today.”

Below is Congressman Nadler's full statement, as prepared:

“Mr. Chairman, this amendment would address just one of the many mean-spirited and irresponsible provisions in this legislation.  It would remove the bill’s arbitrary and unreasonably low 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 his ability to respond to emergency situations.

“Under current law, the President determines the annual cap on refugees, which President Obama set at 110,000 for Fiscal Year 2017.  Many people believe this figure was already too low, given the humanitarian crises unfolding in Syria and in Central America.  But this legislation would further reduce the cap by more than half, to just 50,000 refugees a year, the same number as was ordered by President Trump in his Muslim Travel Ban.

“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 50,000 person cap, regardless of international events, regardless of any crises 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 without needing to wait the six months otherwise required.

“There is no guarantee under the bill that Congress will even act on the President’s recommendations, whether for an emergency or in setting an annual cap.  Waiting for a bitterly divided, and hopelessly gridlocked Congress to act is essentially a guarantee that this arbitrary and unreasonably low cap will stay in law in perpetuity.  My 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 65 million refugees world-wide today, more than at any time since World War II, but this legislation 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 Syrian 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 have been down this path before.  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 were not 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 have a moral obligation to help the most desperate among us, but this legislation would turn our backs on those who need our protection the most.

“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 that 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.  My amendment would at least preserve the status quo, and would leave it up to the President.

“Granted, President Trump has sought a cap of 50,000 refugees.  That is his decision—as cruel and as unwise as it may be.  But we will not always have a President who demonizes refugees and who treats them as dangerous criminals to be feared.  One day, we will once again have a President who is guided by reason and compassion, and we should not tie his or her hands by giving in to the politics of fear today.

“I urge adoption of the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

###