Action Alert: Sign this Letter in Support of Syrian and Iraqi Refugees
The U.S. Senate plans to vote on Wednesday, January 20th on H.R. 4038, "The American Security against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act," legislation passed by the House of Representatives last November, blocking the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) stands with our refugee brothers and sisters experiencing the same kind of trauma that families from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam faced over 40 years ago.

It is critical that Senators hear from our community TODAY! Sign this letter to join SEARAC in opposing the American SAFE Act. Deadline: Tuesday, January 19, 3pm EST.

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January 19, 2016

Dear Senator,

The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans, along with the xx undersigned Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations and community members, urge you to honor the United States’ humanitarian responsibility in protecting Syrian and Iraqi refugees by opposing H.R. 4038- The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act.

Southeast Asian American communities arose from the largest refugee resettlement in U.S. history, when more than 1.3 million men, women, and children from war-torn countries were resettled after decades of the U.S. war in Vietnam, the Secret War in Laos, and the bombings of Cambodia, followed by the ruthless Khmer Rouge genocide. In 1975 alone, the United States resettled 4,600 refugees from Cambodia, 800 from Laos, and 125,000 from Vietnam, and continued to welcome hundreds of thousands more in need of safe haven in the years to come. It has been over 40 years since the United States opened its doors to vulnerable populations from Southeast Asia in need of humanitarian protection, and our country has only grown stronger. We call on lawmakers to support policies that protect immigrant and refugee communities.

H.R. 4038 would create an unnecessarily burdensome review process that would take years to implement, and effectively shut down ongoing efforts to resettle refugees. The bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI Director, and the Director of National Intelligence to certify to a number of Congressional committees that each refugee from Syria is not a security threat. However, it does not provide guidance on what this certification process would look like, how these agencies will come to a consensus, or what would even constitute a “threat.” In the meantime, these additional layers of bureaucracy will halt resettlement efforts for vulnerable populations—a majority of whom are victims of ISIS and state terrorism.

If this process is established, it will significantly increase the amount of time needed to screen refugees, which is already the lengthiest and most robust in the world. Typically, it takes an average of 18-36 months before an individual is even able to set foot on U.S. soil. This, coupled with additional burden of certification among three heads of federal agencies for each refugee, will lead to an unreasonable delay in processing, and could effectively put an end to the refugee resettlement program. Additionally, security and medical clearances, which are typically valid for only limited periods of time, run the risk of expiring as a result of lengthier screening.

H.R. 4038 requires reporting to thirteen congressional committees on each refugee that is considered for resettlement. This is unreasonably burdensome and will further delay the admission of refugees, cause security clearances to expire, and effectively end the program.

Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country. Prior to even setting foot in the U.S., refugees are subject to a host of biographic and identity investigations; FBI biometric checks of applicants' fingerprints and photographs; in-depth, in-person interviews by well-trained Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings; investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center; and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies. Supervisory review of all decisions, random case assignment, inter-agency national security teams, trained document experts, forensic testing of documents, and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Due to technological advances, Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process.

The bill is a waste of resources, as a result of incredibly burdensome and unnecessarily bureaucratic nature of refugee screening and processing. Funds could instead be used to establish and run a more efficient certification process that would be could be used in conducting actual security reviews of refugees and others who are vetted by these agencies.

Support of H.R. 4038, the American SAFE Act, will signify to the world that the U.S. has no interest in being part of the global solution to protect the victims of the violence in Syria and Iraq. Turning our backs on our humanitarian responsibility is not only un-American but morally unconscionable. These efforts will waste taxpayer dollars. Even worse, it will do nothing to make our country safer, and it will continue to put the safety of refugees and immigrants at risk.

For these reasons we ask that you OPPOSE H.R. 4038. We appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

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