February 3, 2016 STATEMENT — LIRS Statement for the Record on “Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs”

House Committee on Homeland Security

February 3, 2016

by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

 

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) appreciates the opportunity to submit its views on the United States Refugee Admissions Program.  As the national organization founded by Lutherans to serve uprooted people, LIRS is committed to helping those who have been forced to flee their homes find protection. Following God’s call in scripture to uphold justice for the sojourner, LIRS serves as a leader in calling for the protection of vulnerable migrants and refugees, including children and families from Syria.

For over 75 years, LIRS has worked to welcome over 500,000 refugees to the United States on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In Fiscal Year 2015, LIRS and its refugee resettlement network partners welcomed over 10,500 refugees to their new communities and empowered them to build new lives.

Resettlement in a third country is considered a durable solution and a last resort for only a small fraction of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. LIRS is proud to be one of nine organizations that partners with the federal government, particularly the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to be a part of this solution.

The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) that is located within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency continually achieves its dual mission to offer resettlement opportunities to eligible refugees while safeguarding the integrity of the program and the United States’ national security.  To protect U.S. national security, DHS provides advanced training to its refugee adjudicators on security protocols, fraud detention and fraud prevention.  In addition, each refugee considered for resettlement in the United States goes through a multi-layered screening process before coming to the United States. These processes include multiple biographic and biometric checks by U.S. security vetting agencies which are routinely updated, in-person interviews with trained adjudication’s officers and ‘pre- departure’ checks.  No case is finally approved until results from all security checks have been received and analyzed.

To add unnecessary security screening mechanisms to this already robust process would needlessly harm individuals who need protection by delaying their resettlement. “Sadly, the Syrian refugee population includes severely vulnerable individuals: women and girls at risk, survivors of torture and violence, and people with serious medical needs or disabilities,” said Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO. “LIRS and our national network stand ready to do what it takes to welcome into U.S. communities the most vulnerable Syrian refugees who cannot return home or integrate in the countries currently hosting them.”

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program offers refugees safe haven and a chance at a new life, while also bringing tangible benefits to the communities that welcome them. Having endured incredible hardship and unimaginable horrors in their home countries, refugees often spend years exiled in host countries once they flee, awaiting the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Once they are resettled in a third country, refugees routinely become engaged and productive community members, contributing economically, socially, and spiritually to our communities. The support of welcoming communities, congregations, volunteers, employers, schools, foster families and others makes resettlement a successful public-private partnership. The federal government, particularly PRM and ORR, and state governments play a vital role.

In the case of Syrian refugees, the conflict continues to worsen and host countries in the region are increasingly strained and unable to offer benefits or stability.  Desperate refugees are risking their lives and the lives of their entire families making dangerous journeys over land and sea to reach safety.  Hundreds of thousands have arrived in Europe with the hope of a permanent solution.  While most citizens in affected countries in the European Union have reacted with welcome, some governments are choosing to close and militarize their borders to keep refugees out.  It is against this backdrop that LIRS and our partners will continue to call on the Administration to resettle Syrian refugees. In response to past global crises, the U.S. has led the effort to resettle hundreds of thousands of refugees — a tiny fraction of those who are displaced — and America has always been better and stronger as a result. With the support of local churches and communities, our nation has the capacity to continue to welcome these vulnerable refugees into the United States.

 

If you have any questions about this statement, please contact Joanne Kelsey, LIRS Assistant Director for Advocacy at jkelsey@lirs.org or 202.626.7939.