H.R. 4731, the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act

March 16, 2016

The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), with more than 60 faith-based and secular affiliated organizations, is the nation’s leading interfaith response to the Syrian refugee crisis. A project of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, the Alliance seeks significantly greater efficiency in the refugee resettlement process, without compromising U.S. security.

 

In the strongest possible terms, MFA condemns the so-called Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act as actually a xenophobic, Islamophobic attempt to curtail the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Rather than truly reform our refugee program and permit effective, efficient processing of victims of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II in a way that also protects the U.S., this bill unnecessarily limits refugee admissions. In fact, it creates significant impediments that delay resettlement and keep countless numbers of Syrian lives in danger. 

 

MFA calls upon the House Judiciary Committee to affirm, rather than undermine, American values and history by recognizing the human dignity of refugees.  Our Constitution enshrines religious liberty and the United States has a long history of welcoming the distressed from other lands.  In the guise of ameliorating religious persecution, this bill would in fact preclude most Muslims from reaching our shores at all.

 

The most vulnerable of those fleeing Syria are from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, including religious minorities and Muslims alike. To paint Muslim refugees, in particular, as security threats solely by virtue of their religion defies the compassion and values – and law – that shape and define American history. 

 

Anti-refugee rhetoric runs counter to the key religious principles of the faiths represented in the Multifaith Alliance – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others. All our faiths call for helping the needy, the oppressed, the stranger and the disadvantaged. Indeed, the guiding scriptural passage of the Multifaith Alliance comes from Leviticus 19:16 in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.”

 

We call on House Judiciary Committee Members to refrain from politicizing the refugees’ plight and instead reach into the well of our own national values to extend a welcoming hand to those seeking refuge. The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016 does not extend this welcoming hand but, among other onerous provisions, would allow states and local governments to give the back of their hand.

 

We urge this Committee to abstain from hostile, counter-productive actions directed at Syrian refugees and Muslims.  This bill can only serve to escalate public fears and undercut and undermine U.S. efforts to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis and improve the refugee resettlement program in a way that protects lives, as well as our safety.

 

The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a project of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in cooperation with JDC, is a coalition of more than 60 faith-based and secular organizations. Our mission is to mobilize global support to alleviate the Syrian humanitarian crisis, heighten awareness of its growing dangers, and advance future stability in the region. MFA conducts crisis-related briefings in the U.S. and abroad, facilitates relationships between complementary partner organizations working to help Syrian war victims, and nurtures transformative people-to-people diplomacy in the region.

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Multifaith Alliance 

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Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees is a project of the Tides Center 
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