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January 29, 2017

Veterans Urge Trump to Rethink Executive Orders Barring Refugees, Immigrants

Washington, D.C.—In a letter sent today Veterans for American Ideals, a group of more than 2,000 veterans of the U.S. armed forces, urged President Donald Trump to reconsider his executive order that halts resettlement of thoroughly screened refugees, and blocks immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, including for Iraqis who have obtained visas to the United States as a result of the risks associated with their work with U.S. servicemembers.

"We are concerned that Friday’s order suspends priority resettlement and special immigrant visas (SIVs) for Iraqis who risked their lives to work with the American military, government, or other American entities as translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, logisticians, and cultural advisors. Leaving our allies behind when they are in grave danger will have devastating consequences for our global reputation and our goals in the Middle East," wrote Human Rights First's Scott Cooper, founder of the group. "Many veterans can point to a moment when one of our foreign allies saved our lives – often by taking up arms against our common enemies. They acted because they believed in America, in our mission, and in the promise that was given."

The executive order, signed by President Trump on Friday, calls for the suspension of visas, immigrant and nonimmigrant entry from some Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Sudan), a suspension of the refugee resettlement program, an indefinite suspension to U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees, and directs the State Department to prioritize religious minorities for entry into the United States over other vulnerable groups, thus restricting resettlement of Muslim refugees from Muslim-majority countries.

The order also suspends priority resettlement and special visas (SIVs) for Iraqis who risked their lives to work with the American military, government or other American entities as translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, logisticians, and cultural advisors, and could also if Afghanistan is added to the list derail the protection of Afghan SIV recipients who worked with the U.S. military. These men and women and their families now face grave threats for working to advance U.S. interests.

"We are confident that the United States can protect both its security and vulnerable refugees," wrote Cooper. We can and must keep our promises to those whose lives are at risk because they saved ours."
 
The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over 60 million people displaced. Over 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country due to conflict and persecution, and 7.6 million are displaced within Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Human Rights First’s report "The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Need for U.S. Leadership” details how many of these refugees have been stranded for years in neighboring countries where they cannot work or support their families, have little access to education, and lack the level of humanitarian assistance they need. Frontline states and key U.S. allies including Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan continue to host the majority of the nearly 5 million refugees who have fled Syria, struggling under the strain of hosting so many refugees.
 
Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, is a nonpartisan group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.
 
For more information or to speak with Cooper contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at MargolisME@humanrightsfirst.org.