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Conference Report on H. R. 1585, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 1585, NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 -- (House of Representatives - December 12, 2007)


Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of language in this conference report that includes several critical provisions to aid the resettlement of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons.

First, I offer my sincere thanks to Chairman SKELTON and Senator KENNEDY for working to include this language in the conference report before us today.

Since our invasion, well over 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes as a result of political instability, economic catastrophe, and ethnic and sectarian strife.

Unable to legally find employment in their host countries, living in substandard housing with inadequate medical and educational facilities, many refugees simply have no place to turn.

While neighboring countries have struggled to cope with the strain of hosting millions of these refugees, our track record on refugee resettlement has been nothing short of an embarrassment.

As the refugee crisis unfolded in Iraq and its neighboring countries in the aftermath of our invasion, the Departments of State and Homeland Security stood by while a backlog of refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement languished in the slums of Amman and other cities in the region.

This legislation will help make up for the administration's inexcusably lethargic pace by setting out clear refugee processing priorities, mandating the centralization of Iraq refugee efforts in the State Department, requiring greater cooperation with those allies in the region who are hosting many of these refugees, and increasing congressional oversight of refugee assistance and resettlement programs.

In addition, the language which we have worked together in great bipartisan fashion to include in this conference report also strengthens the Special Immigrant Visa program, for Iraqis who have worked for our Government and military in Iraq.

Many of these Iraqis who served bravely besides our troops and diplomats need our immediate assistance. Singled out as collaborators, they have been targeted by death squads, militias, and al-Qaeda.

Clearly, we owe them more than just a debt of gratitude. We owe them a safe haven and a fresh start.

While this legislation represents an important step forward in our commitment to these refugees, it cannot be the last word on the matter.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the future to help us live up to our commitments to these refugees.

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