U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Recognizes Crisis in Middle East
(Washington, DC) â€“ Showing their support for the plight of Iraqi Refugees, including the Chaldean/Assyiran Syriac Christian Minorities, the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services highlighted the plight of Iraqi ethno-religious minorities by including language in the report to accompany S. 3001, the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Bill.
Specifically the language said:
Refugee crisis in Iraq
The committee continues to monitor closely the ongoing refugee crisis in Iraq, a crisis resulting from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are approximately 2.8 million Iraqis displaced internallyâ€” 1.5 million of them after the Samarra bombings in February 2006, and two million more in neighboring states, particularly Jordan and Syria.
The committee notes that the continuing ethno-sectarian violence across Iraq is forcing thousands more to leave their homes every month. However, the committee notes that recent reports from UNHCR indicate that new displacement is continuing at a slower pace than in previous years. The slowdown is due to a number of factors including closed borders in the region and in provinces where internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not allowed to their territories. Other factors include the presence of more homogenous communities, districts, and neighborhoods; exhaustion of resources for many families; and a decrease in violence. Despite these improvements, given the U.S. role and stake in the conflict, the committee believes the United States must continue to play a significant role in addressing the plight of displaced Iraqis, particularly those highly vulnerable religious minorities. (Italics added)
In recent years, the National Defense Authorization Act has included legislation to permit the Department of Defense to assist those Iraqis who have helped the United States to sustain and manage its presence. In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110â€“181), the committee included a provision expanding the Iraqi special immigrant visa program. The committee has noted that the special immigrant status provisions for certain Iraqis are first and foremost intended to help those Iraqis who have provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government. The provisions are meant to help and reward those Iraqi workers for their assistance to the U.S. Government.
Under the special immigrant program, applicants are required to prove that they have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a result of their employment by the U.S. Government. There is strong evidence that Iraqis who have assisted the United States have experienced ongoing serious threats because of their service to the United States. Many have been killed, or have had family members killed. Others have been threatened. The committee expects that, absent unusual circumstances, Iraqis who have assisted the United States mission in Iraq will meet this statutory standard.
Joseph Kassab, a director from CASCA and the head of the refugee assistance and resettlement program at the Chaldean Federation of America hailed the Senate action, â€œThe threat is serious and real to our people, specifically the Chaldean/Assyrian Christians who have aided Americans in Iraq and it is imperative that the United States Government recognize this threat. We are grateful for the work of the Senate Armed Services Committee and would like to acknowledge the support of both Chairman Carl Levin and Senator Ted Kennedy in recognizing the crisis that our people face in Iraq.â€
Martin Manna, another director from CASCA added, â€œWith the leadership of Chairman Carl Levin, our Chaldean/Assyrian community in Michigan and nationwide now know that the United States Senate has recognized and will continue to address the dire situation of our refugees and those who are internally displaced in Iraq. We are grateful for his support and leadership. We look forward to working with Senator Levin to ensure the House accepts the Senateâ€™s language moving forward.â€
S. 3001, the Fiscal Year 2009 National Defense Authorization Bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 30, 2008. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation some time this summer.
CASCA was formed in 2007 to educate U.S. policymakers on the plight of Iraqâ€™s Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac Christian minorities and to advocate for policies that will support stability, security, aid, and reconstruction relief within Iraq and assistance and resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees of this fragile population outside Iraq. CASCA was formed from the following four organizations: The Assyrian American National Federation, The Assyrian National Council of Illinois, The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, and The Chaldean Federation of America.