Reps. Adam Schiff and Frank Wolf Call on Department of Homeland Security to Extend Humanitarian Parole for Syrian RefugeesTuesday January 22, 2013
Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) called on their colleagues to join them on a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to use her authority to extend humanitarian parole – which would provide a temporary visa for those in an emergency situation – to the nearly six thousand Syrian nationals with approved immigrant petitions. By doing this, the Secretary would allow Syrians who have been waiting for a visa, to reunite with their family members in the United States without delay. Over the past two years, the ongoing Syrian civil war has become a humanitarian emergency and a source of tremendous suffering – many Syrians have relocated within the country to stay with friends and family, hundreds of thousands have fled the country, and many more continue to leave each day in search of safety. Of these refugees, members of religious minorities, including the country's Christian population, are especially at risk and many have sought refuge in the United States.
“Since the civil war in Syria erupted almost two years ago, we have seen our worst fears materialize, with a tremendous loss of life, suffering and heartache,” said Rep. Schiff. “DHS has an opportunity to help many trying to flee the violence and unite with family members in the United States. In 2010 when a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the Administration took action to help bring orphaned children to the U.S. We should act in this humanitarian crisis as well, and I hope that the Secretary will take swift action.”
"Thousands have died and thousands more have fled Syria, but the Christian minority, much like the Iraqi Christians before them, are particularly vulnerable,” Rep. Wolf said. “It’s in situations like these where we must remember the call of our founding fathers to be a ‘shining city upon a hill’ and offer our help and refuge to the suffering victims of the Syrian civil war.”
Since the start of the Syrian civil war, there have been more than 600,000 refugees fleeing the country, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Additionally, more than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011. Inside Syria alone, there are 4 million in need of assistance, including 2.5 million who are internally displaced. In recent months, international watchers have seen an escalation of the conflict, and there is concern that these numbers will only continue to increase unabated.
Schiff and Wolf are circulating a letter to Secretary Napolitano to their Congressional colleagues which would urge the Secretary to use her administrative power to grant humanitarian parole to thousands waiting for permanent visas to enter the United States.
Below is a copy of the letter the lawmakers are planning on sending:
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
As Syria’s civil war continues unabated, international consensus on a way forward remains elusive, guaranteeing more fighting and dying in the coming months. In addition, the full force of a harsh winter has descended on the region, compounding the humanitarian catastrophe that confronts all Syrians. The Syrian crisis has put enormous strains on the international community, Syria’s neighbors and international relief agencies, which cannot meet the needs of vast numbers of refugees. As a global champion of human rights, the United States, too, must do more to protect and care for the innocent victims of the fighting, and, as a first step, we urge you to use your authority to swiftly extend humanitarian parole to Syrians with approved immigrant petitions.
According to a United Nations report issued in early January, more than 60,000 Syrians have been killed since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011. An estimated 3000 Syrians are fleeing from the violence and crossing into neighboring countries each day. In total, nearly 600,000 Syrians have fled and an estimated one million more will leave over the next six months as conditions are expected to deteriorate, especially in and around Damascus.
Those who remain within Syria’s border desperately need assistance. With the deteriorating humanitarian situation, Syrians are in great need of food, shelter, and life-saving medical attention. Some cities no longer have operational medical facilities and many are without electricity. The humanitarian aid over the next six months may exceed an additional $1.5 billion.
The Refugee-Escapee Act of 1957, which was passed in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet Union, was the first use of humanitarian parole authority for a group of refugees. Since then, the authority has been used in a number of other cases, including the Lautenberg Amendment of 1989 to provide adjustment for Jews and Christians from the former Soviet Union and re-education camp survivors, the 1994 Cuban Migration Crisis, as well as the parole of certain Haitian orphans in 2010.
According to the National Visa Center, as of October 2012, there are 5,947 Syrians with approved immigrant petitions. Humanitarian parole would provide much needed relief not only for those who are trying to escape the increasingly dangerous situation and reunite with family members in the United States, but it would also alleviate the pressure on neighboring countries sheltering many tens of thousands of refugees. This is particularly a concern with religious minorities, including the Christian community, who are at great risk and the subject of persecution and reprisal. It is with the utmost urgency that we call on you to grant humanitarian parole to the nearly six thousand Syrians nationals who are the beneficiaries of an approved immediate relative petition and are waiting to immigrate to the United States.