SAFE Act harms refugees

Erol Kekic | January 15, 2016

Statue Of Liberty Sculpture, On Liberty Island In The Middle OfEarlier this week I had the pleasure to hear Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speak at Seton Hall in New York City.  She spoke to the students and audience members on how the world looks to the U.S. to lead on the great issues of our time. The world is currently facing the largest refugee humanitarian crisis since World War II and we must lead now as we have before. We must offer welcome to our refugee sisters and brothers in their darkest hours.

Ambassador Power spoke eloquently about how we, as Americans, must do more to help the refugee families who are so desperately seeking safety and a future on our shores. The United States has been a beacon of welcome for immigrants since its founding. This is a core value of our country and one our generation must protect. However, some politicians seem to have forgotten this value, offering only discrimination and suspicion when faced with the task of ensuring our country’s legacy of welcoming continues.

Next week, the U.S. Senate will take up a vote on the so-called SAFE Act. Sadly, this bill does everything but keep those most in need of security safe. This legislation will not make anyone safer. Instead, it preys on the fears that currently are saturating the political discourse in this country. Fear of the other. Fear of the refugee. Fear of the Muslim. We, as Americans, are better and must rise above this fear. We can not and should not let fear direct our legislation.

Should this legislation pass the Senate, it would effectively grind to a halt the resettlement of all Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the United States. As millions flee unimaginable violence and persecution in their home countries, we have a moral responsibility to offer them true safety. The SAFE Act ignores this moral responsibility and instead furthers the rhetoric of fear.

For us to defeat this legislation, Senators need to hear loud and clear that the SAFE Act is not where this country should go. Senators need to hear from you.

Call your Senators TODAY & EVERY DAY leading up to the vote on Wednesday: Urge them to vote NO to H.R. 4038 and any legislation that would stop, pause or defund the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. 1-866-940-2439

Sample Script: “I’m a constituent from [State] and I support the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I am opposed to any bill that would stop or pause the resettlement of refugees of any nationality or religion. I urge the Senator to vote NO to H.R. 4038, The American SAFE Act.” You can read more here on helpful talking points and some great ideas on how to tweet your Senators about this bill as well.

Friends, compromising our values or sacrificing our core principles has never made us more secure, nor will it. Ambassador Power, speaking on behalf of President Obama, is raising her voice — loud and clear — in support of the proud tradition of welcome the U.S. has shown in the past to the refugees who have fled to our shores. Your voices to Congress will carry just as much weight, if not more.

Many refugees and migrants who first came to our shores generations past landed on Ellis Island. They stared in awe and hope at the Statue of Liberty, an international symbol of the hope of the American dream. They would have seen this inscription:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

Please join me in protecting this proud legacy of welcome for those who need it most.

Erol Kekic is the Executive Director of CWS’s Immigration and Refugee Program.