WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement Friday after President Donald Trump issued an executive order on foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States:
“President Trump’s cruel executive order on refugees undermines our core values and traditions, threatens our national security, and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of our strict vetting process, the most thorough in the world.
“The United States has a long history of providing safe harbor for our world’s most vulnerable refugees—including survivors of torture and other violence, those with severe medical conditions, and women and children—all without discriminating based on religion. That proud tradition is inscribed in the pedestal of our Statue of Liberty, which declares: ‘Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’
“On this Holocaust Remembrance Day we are reminded why providing sanctuary to refugees is crucial—and what the consequences can be when we don’t take in those fleeing atrocities. During the Holocaust, the United States turned away Jews and others seeking refuge. Some of those individuals were then murdered in the largest genocide the world has ever known. Today, most of all, we should heed the tragic lessons of our past.
“Turning away refugees from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, referred for resettlement from the UNHCR and subject to strict U.S. screening, especially in their greatest hour of need, undermines our commitment to promote and protect basic human rights and damages our national security. Refugees of all faiths from these countries are suffering from the scourge of conflict and brutal extremists. ISIL has persecuted and even committed genocide against religious minorities, and it has cruelly persecuted ordinary Muslims as well. Many of these people are fleeing the exact same terrorism for which President Trump claims to be banning them. Blocking these refugees will not only prevent them from obtaining the same safety and opportunities we all seek but will also divide families, as immigrants try to reunite with loved ones who have already found safe harbor in the United States.
“Our greatest priority is and will always be our national security. The United States has one of the world’s most stringent and thorough processes for the acceptance of refugees—a screening period of at least 18-24 months, involving extensive interviews and background checks. In fact, as numerous national security officials have confirmed, refugees are more thoroughly vetted than any other category of traveler seeking entry to the United States.
“Turning away Muslim refugees but not refugees of other faiths from the same countries also plays directly into the narrative espoused by ISIL and others who seek to harm Americans and our allies—that we discriminate against Muslims. This policy is dangerous, shortsighted, and will harm our alliances and partnerships.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants of all and no faiths. We are the nation that received refugees from the Holocaust after the Second World War. We are the nation that opened our doors to hundreds of thousands of citizens fleeing conflicts and political oppression in El Salvador, Cuba, Sudan, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The United States must continue to lead by example. We must respond to the current refugee crisis as we have before—with a humane, robust refugee resettlement program that maintains our current tough, strict security vetting protocols. We need to keep our doors—and our hearts—open to those who so desperately need safe harbor.”