Earlier this year, I traveled to Jordan and Egypt as a member of a Refugee Council USA delegation to learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis. Our delegation recently released a report entitled “At the Breaking Point: Refugees in Jordan and Egypt” detailing our recommendations to Congress and the Administration. Now, Representative Vargas (D-CA) along with Representatives Rooney (R-FL), Conyers (D-MI), and Hunter (R-CA) have introduced a bill, The Protecting Religious Minorities Persecuted by ISIS Act of 2015 (H.R. 1568), that would make the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program more accessible to persecuted groups in Iraq and Syria.
As you know, the scale of the Syrian conflict is monumental. In four years it has caused one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. There are now more than 3 million Syrian refugees, over half of whom are children under 17. In addition, the widespread human rights violations perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have left more than 10 million people in need of protection and humanitarian assistance both within Syria and in surrounding countries. Millions of people forced to flee their homes in search of safety are in need of both international humanitarian support and expedited access to the United States Refugee Admission Program. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued a global appeal for funding to provide immediate and long-term assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The Protecting Religious Minorities Persecuted by ISIS Act of 2015 would make the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program more accessible to persecuted groups in Iraq and Syria, including individuals facing gender-based violence and religious and ethnic minorities fleeing ISIS. The legislation would also open additional processing entities in the region, increase staff for processing refugee applications, and streamline the existing systems for conducting background and security checks. H.R. 1568 would also expand the use of video interviewing and improve accountability and transparency around denial decisions.
All people deserve a home and the opportunity to rebuild their lives without fear. As people of faith, and as Americans, we must welcome and walk alongside those who seek safety. Please take a moment to use LIRS’s Action Center to urge your elected representatives to support this life-saving legislation.