We urge you to vote “No” on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015. We also condemn the xenophobic rhetoric that has marked this debate from the start.
Refugees to the United States, particularly those of Syrian origin, are already subject to some of the most stringent security screening procedures in the world. They must first be cleared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and are then required to go through an extensive vetting process, which includes independent background checks by U.S. federal agencies, biometric screening, terrorism database searches, and investigations into personal ties, places of employment and sites of worship. This process takes 12 to 18 months for non-Syrian refugees, and Syrian refugees can wait three years or longer due to added background checks required by the Syria Enhanced Review process.
Many refugees are forced to live in dangerous conditions in overcrowded and underfunded refugee camps as they wait. Instead of fixing the inefficiencies that lead to this unacceptable delay, this bill imposes additional hurdles such as unanimous approval by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) on a Syrian refugee’s application. These will not make us safer, but will deny protection to vulnerable refugees who will continue to be exposed to harm. Imposing such prohibitive bureaucratic red tape on already overburdened procedures could effectively halt Syrian refugee admission into the United States, in violation of U.S. international treaty obligations and our moral obligations as a nation.
The shocking and tragic events that took place in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere are a sobering reminder that how we choose to respond to these atrocities is the ultimate test of our character as a nation. As a country that prides itself in being a nation of immigrants, we cannot succumb to hatred in the name of security. We cannot sacrifice our most fundamental values by adopting a rhetoric of fear and closing our doors to the victims of the same terrorist acts we condemn. We should be doing more, not less, to help those in need of a safe haven.
We stand with refugees from all over the world. We ask that you do the same by voting “No” on the SAFE Act of 2015.
Harvard Immigration Project
Paige von Mehren
Seung Wan (Andrew) Paik
You may sign the letter here. Signatures included in the letter as posted include those made by November 26, 2015, and the final letter will include more signatures.
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