Democratic lawmakers gathered with activists and faith leaders on Thursday at the Capitol to mark World Refugee Day.
Participants praised the achievements of refugees in the U.S. and criticized the Trump administration for cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the country, at an event organized by Church World Service, Oxfam, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Refugee Council USA.
Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Milestone bill would bar imports linked to forest destruction MORE (D-Hawaii) spoke about how the issue is a personal one for him, sharing the story of his Jewish grandparents, who fled persecution in Europe and found safety in Canada.
“On both sides of my family people gave up their homes and belongings, their friends and family for a better life,” he said.
Schatz said all refugees have the right to security and prosperity.
“This is the dream of tens of millions of mothers and fathers, women and men, teenagers and children today,” he said.
Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Biden expresses confidence on climate in renewable energy visit More than 100 Democrats back legislation lowering Medicare eligibility age to 60 MORE (D-Colo.), co-chair of the Congressional Refugee Caucus, criticized the Trump administration efforts to drastically cut the number of refugees admitted to the United States.
“Efforts and rhetoric from this administration continue to undermine the American legacy of providing safe harbor from those around the world,” he said.
Since taking office, President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE has overseen a major cut in the number of refugees accepted for resettlement. The administration reduced the “cap” on refugees the fiscal 2018 to 45,000, but only resettled 22,491 refugees.
In the past, presidents have set the cap within a range of 70,000. Last year, the administration announced it was lowering the cap to 30,000 refugees for fiscal 2019.
“This is a complete rejection of our country’s values,” said Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, at the event.
Democrats are pushing to undo Trump's policies. On Thursday, House Democrats introduced legislation to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country. But the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
The cuts also come amid a dramatic increase in the number of refugees.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Refugee Agency released their annual “Global Trends” report, which found that 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2018. The figures are the highest ever recorded. The number of people fleeing violence increased by more than two million from 2017.
Refugees also spoke at the event Thursday. Nasser Alsaadun worked as an interpreter with both the U.S. and U.K. militaries during the Iraq War. He fled violence in Iraq, resettled in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2006 and has become an advocate for refugees.
“They can enrich the U.S.,” he said.