Blumenauer: “Turning our back on Syrian refugees is un-American, un-patriotic and morally weak”

November 19, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC (November 19, 2015) – Today, the House considers H.R. 4038, the so-called “American SAFE Act,” that would shut down the U.S. Syrian refugee program for years. Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) released the following statement in opposition of the legislation:

“Americans take pride in our ability to keep our people safe, while simultaneously upholding our values. The bill before us today turns that bedrock tradition on its head. It is a foolish notion that Daesh terrorists need to pretend to be refugees in order to attack America. 

“Proponents are saying this bill simply hits ‘pause’ until we can get a safe refugee process in place. Republicans ought to know that America already has the most thorough vetting process of any nation. Anyone involved in the refugee vetting process knows that a single, tiny shred of concern about an applicant ensures they would never set foot in America as a refugee. Worse, this bill will delay the lengthy process another two years or more. We should not hit ‘pause’ on America’s moral courage, especially not when doing so plays into the hands of the enemy.

“If a terrorist wants to get into the United States, they are not going to wait for the vetting process, where they are likely to get denied. They’ll take a lesson from the 9/11 hijackers, and come on a student or tourist visa. 

“What, exactly, does this bill accomplish? If it’s to bolster our security, it’s clear that those who brought this bill to the floor have drawn the wrong conclusions from Friday’s horrific attacks and from our very own history. If France had passed a similar bill and closed their doors to all Syrian refugees, it would not have prevented the disgusting individuals who carried out those attacks from entering the country because not a single one of them was a refugee. Since 1980, not one of the millions of refugees brought into America has committed an act of terror in our country.

“Another deeply troubling aspect of this proposal for me is that it will upend the work we’ve been doing on a bipartisan basis for 10 years to help the brave souls who were our interpreters, our guides, our drivers in Iraq, and leave them to the tender mercies of Al Qaeda and Daesh. This bill targets this bipartisan program and breaks our promises to the brave Iraqis who kept our men and women in uniform safe.

“America can be the great country that we all love and keep our families safe at the same time. Turning our back on Syrian refugees is un-American, un-patriotic, and morally weak. Sentencing an entire population due to broad-brush characterizations of those who practice a certain faith goes against our core values as a nation. While we mourn the attacks in Paris, we must remember that those tragic events were an extension of the violence that their innocent brothers and sisters in Syria have been subjected to, day in and day out, for years now.

“Our past experience should be a powerful guide. When we look back to U.S. opinion regarding Jewish refugees in the lead up to WWII, how callous we were. When asked, “What’s your attitude toward allowing German, Austrian, and other political refugees to come into the U.S.?,” fewer than 5 percent believed we should raise our immigration quotas to allow them entry. Ultimately, Americans found the courage and wisdom to do what was right. But only after such tragedies as turning back the transatlantic liner, the St. Louis, that came to our ports from Germany with almost 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. They could see America, but were sent back. Nearly a quarter of them lost their lives in the Holocaust.

“This bill is shameful, unnecessary, and it actually makes us less safe. Forcing more and more people in volatile countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, already reaching the breaking point is a continuing disaster. This bill would encourage Europe to turn its back on its responsibilities, too. 

“I would hope Congress is better than this. The House should reject this short-sighted, cruel and destructive bill. Instead we should show the compassion and thoughtfulness that people elected us here to demonstrate.”