Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) wrote nearly six months ago to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to use her authority to extend humanitarian parole -- which would provide a temporary visa for those in an emergency situation -- to the estimated six thousand Syrian nationals with approved immigrant petitions. This would allow Syrians who have been waiting for a visa to reunite with their family members in the United States without delay. Of the fleeing 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 writing to Secretary Napolitano, nearly six months has passed with no response from DHS to the letter signed by more than seventy members of Congress, and the conflict in Syria continues to worsen. This week, Reps. Schiff and Wolf wrote to the Acting Secretary of DHS and to the White House urging the administration to take immediate action.
"Since the civil war erupted in Syria nearly two years ago, violence has continued to escalate with each passing day, and we have seen our worst fears materialize with a tremendous loss of life, suffering and heartache," said Rep. Schiff. "We wrote to Secretary Napolitano almost six months ago, urging her to take a simple action to do our part to help the Syrian refugee population. In 2010 when a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the administration took action to help bring orphaned children to the U.S. We must act in this humanitarian crisis as well, and I hope that the administration will finally take action."
The letter sent six months ago can be found here, and the letter that Schiff and Wolf sent this week to the DHS Secretary and White House is below:
Dear Acting Secretary Beers:
We write to follow-up on a letter from seventy-three Members of Congress urging Secretary Janet Napolitano to extend humanitarian parole to certain Syrian nationals. The letter was dated March 27, 2013, and we have yet to receive a response, after nearly six months.
As Syria's civil war continues to rage, the country's people remain at incredible risk from both government and rebel forces. When we first wrote to Secretary Napolitano, refugee numbers were projected to exceed one million by September. As we now know, with the escalation of violence and the use of horrific gas attacks by government forces, the number of refugees has greatly surpassed these already dire projections, and has already topped two million. The vast number of Syrians fleeing their homes continues to put enormous strains on the international community, Syria's neighbors and relief agencies.
The U.S. can and should act to provide swift relief to Syrians with approved immigrant petitions. According to the National Visa Center, as of September 19, 2013, approximately 6,381 Syrian applications are currently waiting for a visa number to become available. It is unconscionable for us to drag our feet when our country can be an immediate refuge for Syrians who have been waiting to reunite with American family members. Our country has already approved their applications to become permanent U.S. residents. It is now time to also protect them.
More than seventy Members of Congress, on behalf of the U.S. families of thousands of Syrian refugees, have urged the Department of Homeland Security to grant humanitarian parole to Syrian nationals who have been approved for immigrant petitions. This is an urgent matter and we ask that you swiftly grant our request.
Adam B. Schiff Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress Member of Congres