Durbin Attempts to Pass Legislation to Protect Hong Kong Residents from Persecution

Senator Ted Cruz objected to Durbin’s request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, today joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to request Senate passage of the Hong Kong People's Freedom and Choice Act, which would grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. and provide refugee protections to Hong Kong residents facing persecution. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) objected to the request. 

“Thousands of protesters in Hong Kong have been persecuted fighting for the liberties that we Americans routinely say we enjoy: freedoms of assembly and speech, the right to vote, due process and the rule of law. The National Security Law imposed on Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party in June has enabled the ruthless abuse of protestors, political leaders, journalists, and teachers.  Despite its name, the National Security Law is not about security, it's about fear; fear of the voices in Hong Kong calling for reform of democracy and freedom. I believe my colleagues on both sides of the aisle share my feelings about the crisis in Hong Kong. But the question today is, what are we willing to do about it?” Durbin asked.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

This week, Durbin participated in a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the United States’ Hong Kong refugee policy and urged the Senate to immediately pass the bipartisan House-passed Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act and slammed Trump Administration policies that have put at risk Hong Kongers who are fleeing Chinese persecution, as well as thousands of other vulnerable refugees from around the world.

“At Wednesday's Judiciary Committee hearing, we received a clear message: Congress needs to pass the Hong Kong Freedom of Choice Act in the Senate now. We can do it. In fact, we can do it today. Think about the message it would send from the United States to Hong Kong and to the world if we sent this bill to the President's desk to be signed into law. It's bipartisan. It was unanimous in the House. It's timely and it addresses a real problem,” Durbin continued. 

Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States has resettled an average of more than 80,000 refugees per year.  However, in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in history, the Trump Administration has set record-low refugee admissions targets four years in a row, culminating in the lowest level in history this year – 15,000.  It has admitted zero refugees from Hong Kong in the last year. 

“One country cannot take in all of the refugees from Hong Kong, nor should it be asked to. But surely the United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth – we hope a model for democracy in the world – cannot protest what's happening to the innocent people of Hong Kong and the repressive regime of Beijing and then do nothing. Passing the Hong Kong People's Freedom of Choice Act is urgently needed. The situation continues to deteriorate. We need to do it and do it quickly,” Durbin concluded.

Last week, the Trump Administration issued a new rule under which Hong Kongers could be denied asylum if they transit other countries on their way to the United States, if persecutors detained them for only brief periods, or if persecutors were not able to carry out their threats before the individual being persecuted fled to the United States.