November 30, 2015 — The State of Texas has long been a safe haven for the world’s most vulnerable refugees. Refugees from Myanmar, Bhutan, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan and, very recently, Syria, have all found sanctuary here, and the opportunity to live a productive and law-abiding life.
The International Rescue Committee hopes that Texas will continue to honor this long-standing tradition and its commitment to the US Constitution, and would welcome the opportunity to meet with Governor Abbott and other state officials to discuss the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
The IRC understands Governor Abbott’s commitment to the safety of the people of Texas. There is no doubt that what happened on the streets of Paris on November 13 was horrific and the actions of a terrorist organization. However it is important not to conflate terrorists with the Syrian refugees who are seeking sanctuary in the United States. These are people who are fleeing violence and persecution inflicted by extremist groups and armed actors – some of whom are the same groups who took those innocent lives in Paris, Beirut, and on a Russian airliner, all in the past month.
Syrians like Faez and his wife, Shaza, both of whom have been given safe haven in Texas. The family had to flee Syria when Faez was held at gunpoint by a group of armed militants in his home town of Daraa. Pure luck was the reason he managed to escape with his life.
Syrian refugees are the most vetted group of people to come to the United States. Apart from swimming the Atlantic Ocean, the refugee resettlement program is the most difficult way to enter the United States. Refugees go through rigorous security screenings. Multiple intelligence agencies are involved – from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense to the Department of State – and the screening process itself can take up to 24 months. Resettlement is only an option for the most vulnerable. Of the over four million refugees now living in limbo on Syria’s border, the US government has committed to resettling a modest 10,000 Syrians in 2016.
To date, the IRC has resettled eight Syrian refugees to Texas. In an interview, Faez said:
“I’ve been here for a short time, but even in this short time you notice that America is a better place than many other countries. There is a real opportunity to start over and grow. America’s still the land of opportunity for many people who started from nothing and now they are successful. I know I can do something here.”
We hope that Governor Abbott and the State of Texas will embrace Faez and Syrians like him, all of whom are ready to embrace the American dream.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.