Congress sends a clear message that America is stronger for helping refugees
© Getty Images

Soon, the Trump administration is expected to announce the number of refugees that will be admitted into the United States in the coming year. Although we’re in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in history, Trump has consistently reaffirmed his desire to limit refugee entry into the United States out of an unfounded fear of those seeking safety within our borders. There are more than 26 million refugees in need of protection around the world. The United States resettled under 23,000 in 2018, compared to 85,000 in 2016. This year, that number is expected to be even lower. 

Our current refugee crisis requires global leadership and compassion. The House of Representatives recognizes this, which is why the House passed H.Res. 444 unanimously today. I introduced this resolution along with Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartBipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill GOP lawmakers offer new election security measure Trump calls on Supreme Court to strike down DACA, says deal possible MORE (R-Fla.), Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseRep. Veronica Escobar elected to represent freshman class in House leadership Katie Hill calls out a 'double standard' in final floor speech This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D-Colo.) and Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill to regulate top social media platforms Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill MORE (D-Calif.) to reaffirm U.S. leadership in responding to displacement crises around the world.

This is a notable accomplishment given the current political realities of finding common ground in Congress. It’s something that every American should be proud of. Members across the political spectrum have recognized the importance of reaffirming our commitment to promote the safety, health and well-being of millions of displaced persons.

ADVERTISEMENT

Knowing the severity of the refugee crisis, we as a nation must do better to help those in need. Refugees are fleeing home because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. About half of all refugees in 2018 were children.

The United States resettlement program is critical to global humanitarian efforts. These efforts serve to strengthen global security, advance United States foreign policy goals, and support regional host countries while also serving individuals and families in need.

I saw this firsthand. When I was in the Air Force in the 1990s, I participated in Operation Pacific Haven, where the United States helped thousands of Kurds flee from northern Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from slaughtering them. We first brought them to Guam, where I was involved in the extensive screening process that the U.S. conducted before bringing many of the refugees to the mainland. Our nation’s screening process has only improved since then. And the Kurds remain one of America's strongest allies. 

Safely welcoming those seeking refuge into our country is the right thing to do. In stark contrast to this administration’s fear-mongering towards refugees, Congress today sent a clear message that America is stronger for helping those in need. If we turn our back on the world’s most vulnerable people, we’re eschewing the values our country was founded on. The United States was built on the idea that we could create a free country that would serve as a haven for those fleeing persecution. Refugees don’t make our country less safe. But xenophobia, fear and hate do.

Welcoming refugees into the United States doesn’t change who we are as a country; we affirm it.

Lieu represents California’s 33rd District and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.