Washington, D.C. – Almost one month to the day after Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked the Obama administration to take steps to address the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the Administration announced a series of exemptions to the overly-broad “material support” bar in U.S. immigration law. These exemptions will help ensure that innocent refugees will not be barred from the United States because they provided insignificant support to armed rebel groups.
“These exemptions will help address the plight of Syrian refugees who are caught up in the worst humanitarian crisis in a generation,” Durbin said. “The United States has led the world in resettling and providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from conflicts around the globe and today’s announcement will help remove a significant barrier to innocents seeking refuge in the U.S. While there may be differences about how to resolve the conflict, there should be no disagreement that we have a moral and national security imperative to do all we can to help alleviate the suffering of innocent Syrian refugees.”
Last month, the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Subcommittee held a hearing on the Syrian refugee crisis, where Senator Durbin and Senator Cruz, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, called on the Obama Administration to take additional steps to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States.
The hearing featured testimony about the impact of the material support bar on Syrian refugees. For example, the bar would prevent a Syrian who gave a cigarette or a sandwich to a Free Syrian Army solider from receiving refugee status, despite the fact that the United States is providing assistance to the FSA. The bar also would apply to a Syrian refugee who pays an opposition group to ensure safe passage out of Syria. At the hearing, Senator Durbin urged Obama Administration witnesses from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to issue material support bar exemptions to help Syrian refugees as soon as possible.
More information on last month’s hearing can be found here.