WASHINGTON—Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dan Donovan (R-NY), along with sixty other Members of Congress, sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to move quickly to grant humanitarian parole to those who have already-approved immigrant petitions and family in the US. Establishment of a parole program would provide emergency relief to more than 7,000 Syrian families – or an estimated 20,000 individual men, women and children – that have already passed initial background checks but for whom no visa is currently available due to annual numerical limitations on immigrant visa issuances. If granted parole, these individuals would be subject to additional layers of rigorous security checks before they could enter the country.
A parole program is not a cure-all for the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and it should not preclude a much-needed reassessment of the current U.S. refugee resettlement program in light of the Syrian disaster. However, this small but important step can allow innocent victims of the Syrian conflict to escape increasingly dangerous conditions, all the while reunify thousands of families.
In the letter, the Members write: “We write today to encourage you to extend humanitarian parole to the more than 20,000 Syrians who have approved immigrant visa petitions but are currently waiting in the visa backlog. These Syrians – who have already been screened and vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and who have U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident family members within the United States – can be admitted if your Administration exercises its authority under humanitarian parole.”
Other Members signing the letter are Reps. Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Don Beyer, Corrine Brown, Julia Brownley, Lois Capps, Michael Caupano, Tony Cardenas, Judy Chu, Steve Cohen, John Conyers, Jim Costa, Joseph Crowley, Suzan DelBene, Ted Deutch, Debbie Dingell, Keith Ellison, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Luis Gutierrez, Janice Hahn, Alcee Hastings, Michael Honda, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, Hank Johnson, Dan Kildee, Jim Langevin, Barbara Lee, Sander Levin, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn Maloney, Betty McCollum, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Gwen Moore, Seth Moulton, Jerry Nadler, Grace Napolitano, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Beto O’Rourke, Scott Peters, Mark Pocan, Charles Rangel, Kathleen Rice, Bobby Rush, Gregorio Sablan, Jan Schakowsky, Linda Sánchez, Loretta Sanchez, Louis Slaughter, Jackie Speier, Mark Takano, Nikki Tsongas, Juan Vargas, Chris Van Hollen, and Pete Visclosky.
The full letter, sent today, can be found below:
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Dear President Obama:
We write today to encourage you to extend humanitarian parole to the more than 20,000 Syrians who have approved immigrant visa petitions but are currently waiting in the visa backlog. These Syrians – who have already been screened and vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and who have U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident family members within the United States – can be admitted if your Administration exercises its authority under humanitarian parole.
The Syrian civil war is well into its fourth year with no end in sight. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, more than 7 million people are internally displaced within Syria, and more than 4 million have sought safety in nearby countries. Unable to safely return to their home country, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to Europe by any means possible; an unknown number have died along the way, including countless children. Furthermore, members of religious minority groups who fear persecution by the growing threat of ISIL – such as a substantial number from the Christian community – have also been among the millions who have been displaced.
As European leaders struggle to cope with the influx of refugees, we strongly believe that the United States must be part of a comprehensive solution to the crisis. The United States has already taken steps to alleviate the crisis by providing more than $4 billion for humanitarian and refugee assistance in the region. Furthermore, we are encouraged by the Administration’s decision to increase the fiscal year 2016 refugee visa cap and pledge to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, as well as its decision to grant temporary protected status to Syrians already inside of the United States. However, more can be done immediately to protect innocent victims of the war in Syria.
We strongly urge you to extend humanitarian parole to the 20,730 Syrians who are the beneficiaries of already approved immigrant visa petitions but for whom no visa is available. Utilizing your authority to extend humanitarian parole to Syrians is consistent with your Administration’s decision to parole Haitian orphans following the 2010 earthquake and, most recently, to parole the family members of Filipino World War II veterans. While paroling these individuals would be extraordinary, the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis demands such a response.
Many have expressed concern about the potential security risks of Syrian refugees. Admitting those Syrians with approved immigrant visa petitions and for whom the Department of Homeland Security has already performed initial security screenings, is a practical step the Administration can take without jeopardizing national security concerns. Moreover, because these are Syrians for whom a family member has agreed to serve as a financial sponsor, the United States will not need to reallocate funds to these individuals in order to admit and resettle them into the United States. This would allow the United States to focus its resources on Syrian refugees in the most dire of situations.
The United States has a moral obligation to assist individuals escaping persecution worldwide. For years the United States has accepted approximately half of all refugee referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It has also granted humanitarian parole to Jews fleeing persecution in the former Soviet Union and Cubans escaping the Castro regime in years past. While the crisis in Syria presents us with a new challenge, our responsibility to those seeking protection remains unchanged. We stand ready to assist in any way that we can and urge you to act swiftly on the issue of humanitarian parole.