Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

World Refugee Day

Rep. Michael M. Honda

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the courage, spirit and resiliency of refugees around the world and the compassion, generosity and valor of those who have helped them rebuild their lives. The amazing stories of these people are an inspiration to us all.

The lives of refugees are driven by fear of persecution based on race, religion or nationality; or even by membership in a particular social group or political opinion. The United States government plays a unique role in protecting the human rights of current refugees, resolving the conflicts and problems that produce refugees and preventing further refugee crises. Our government must remain a world leader in protecting the human rights of all refugees.

According to statistics from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, as of December 31, 2004 there are approximately 11.5 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. The United States has the capacity and the potential to receive many more refugees: in fiscal year 2004, the refugee ceiling was set at 70,000, while admissions into the United States totaled only 52,875.

I challenge the United States government to ensure a fair process for determining refugee status and to provide physical protection for those seeking asylum. Moreover, the United States should not unnecessarily detain refugee seekers in an attempt to deter them or others from seeking asylum in the United States; such a process is fundamentally contrary to the hope of freedom and democracy that our country represents.

I applaud the United States government for granting refugees basic human rights such as access to work, the means to earn a livelihood and the freedom of movement.

As a representative from California, a State with one of the highest number of refugee arrivals each year, I know there is much yet to be done to protect the rights of refugees.

Mr. Speaker, honoring the courage of refugees requires more than mere praise; we need concrete actions and durable solutions. In their battle against despair, let us be an ally to refugees; let us provide a glimmer of hope; let us be the beacon that America has always symbolized.