September 29, 2014

Rep. Juan Vargas Leads Bipartisan Letter to President Obama, Urging Prompt Re-Opening of In-Country Processing in Iraq

Washington, DC (September 29, 2014) Today, Representative Juan Vargas (CA-51) is leading a bipartisan group of more than 20 Representatives from across the United States to send a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to resume in-county processing at the US Consulate in Erbil, Iraq as part of their humanitarian response to the atrocities taking place against religious minorities in Islamic State (IS)-held territories.  

“The United States has the strategic and moral imperative to prevent and protect indigenous, peaceful Iraqi minorities from the Islamic States’ systemic and barbaric ethnic cleansing crusade,” stated Rep. Vargas.  “The Islamic State is methodically executing a campaign of sectarian intimidation and violence which has included the trafficking of women and children and brutal executions.  We must act swiftly and demonstrate our commitment to protecting religious minorities during this ongoing crisis.”

The letter pushes the Administration to direct the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to resume in-country Priority-2 processing, under the refugee resettlement priority system, for currently eligible parties and expand access to such processing to Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities targeted and persecuted by the Islamic State (IS).   

Furthermore, the letter encourages the Administration to coordinate with the government of Iraq and relevant international humanitarian organizations to take all measures necessary to swiftly and safely resume in-country processing and in-person interviews for refugee applicants in Baghdad.  Additionally, it urges the Administration to strongly consider working with regional and international partners to evaluate the security and staffing necessary to establish P-2 processing capabilities at the US Consulate in Erbil, which is believed to be the most conducive to refugee processing due to its proximity to internally displaced, vulnerable populations who cannot feasibly or safely make the journey south to Baghdad.

Members of Congress signing onto the letter include Representatives Grijalva (D-AZ), Salmon (R-AZ), Franks (R-AZ), Lee (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Lofgren (D-CA), Farr (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), Hunter (R-CA), Peters (D-CA), Rooney (R-FL), Clawson (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), McGovern (D-MA), Capuano (D-MA), Delaney (D-MD), Conyers (D-MI), Fortenberry (R-NE), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Grimm (R-NY), Engel (D-NY), Blumenauer (D-OR), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Duffy (R-WI).  

Vargas represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire US/Mexico border.  He serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.  Vargas is currently serving his first term in Congress.  He represented the 40th California State Senate District from 2010-2012, the 79th California State Assembly District from 2000 – 2006 and served on the San Diego City Council from 1993 – 2000. 

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