Statement On The UN Summit On The Global Refugee Crisis

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy
The UN Summit On The Global Refugee Crisis

September 20, 2016

“With the exception of climate change, no issue more urgently requires collective action by the world’s governments than the calamity facing tens of millions refugees and internally displaced people. The protracted conflicts in Syria and South Sudan alone have uprooted millions. Tens of thousands of Central American children have braved the journey north seeking safety in our own country.

“Syrians fleeing to Europe have exposed deeply rooted prejudices. It is worth recalling that those same European countries were the source of countless desperate people who were welcomed by the United States and others during World War II. We are seeing some of the same xenophobic reactions here toward Muslims and Central Americans, and this summit takes place against the backdrop of a U.S. system of family detention that has resulted in small children being detained for more than a year. The psychological harm of such detention is well-documented and the policy is incompatible with our country’s longstanding commitment to those fleeing persecution.

“Since the days of the pilgrims, America has been a haven for people fleeing persecution. We take pride in the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Canada and many other countries have likewise welcomed those seeking refuge from foreign conflicts.

“By hosting the UN Summit, President Obama has stepped forward when others have shamelessly called for erecting new barriers. Our generation will be judged by how we respond to humanitarian catastrophes that have forced us to confront this question: Will we recognize our common humanity and responsibility to help those who have lost everything and are fleeing for their lives, or will we succumb to fears and excuses to turn our backs?

“No country can shoulder the current humanitarian burden alone, but President Obama is right that we can set an example by doing our part as the country with the largest economy and a longstanding tradition, by contributing our share to help refugees stranded overseas and by welcoming those who are eligible to resettle here.”

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