Tuesday, September 22, 2015

HHH Dean Schwartz organizes letter to "Urge White House to Accept More Syrian Refugees"

Dean Schwartz coordinated a group of former government officials who petitioned the White House to accept more Syrian refugees.  He is quoted in NY Times story below:Program Director Laura Bloomberg of the Humphrey Institute

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/18/world/middleeast/ex-officials-urge-white-house-to-accept-more-syrian-refugees.html?_r=0

WASHINGTON — More than 20 former senior officials, including some who served in prominent positions in the Obama administration, urged the White House on Thursday to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees, a tenfold increase over an American commitment made last week.

“We urge that you announce support for a refugees admissions goal of 100,000 Syrian refugees on an extraordinary basis, over and above the current worldwide refugee ceiling of 70,000,” they wrote in a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders.

The United States has accepted about 1,500 refugees from Syria since the start of the conflict there, and the White House announced last week that it would take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees over the next year. But the letter, which was signed by former officials from Democratic and Republican administrations, argued that much more should be done.

“With some four million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and hundreds of thousands of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe, this would be a responsible exercise in burden sharing,” it says. “We urge you to take extraordinary measures, as were taken for refugees from Vietnam, northern Iraq and Kosovo.”
Letter From Ex-Officials on Syrian Refugees

The letter from ex-officials urges the White House to allocate up to $2 billion to pay for resettling Syrian refugees and help support international refugee efforts.


OPEN Document


The letter also urges the White House to allocate up to $2 billion to pay for resettling Syrian refugees and to help support international refugee efforts. The United States has provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees, but international organizations are struggling with funding shortfalls.

The former officials who signed the letter include some noteworthy veterans of the Obama administration: Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense; Derek Chollet, who served as an assistant defense secretary, Harold H. Koh, who served as the State Department’s legal adviser; and Eric P. Schwartz, who was a senior refugee official in the State Department.

Signatories who served in Republican administrations include Paul D. Wolfowitz, a deputy defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration, and Kori Schake and Richard Fontaine, who worked on the National Security Council under Mr. Bush.

Several former diplomats who served in the Middle East were also signatories, including Robert S. Ford, whom Mr. Obama named to serve as ambassador to Syria, and Ryan C. Crocker, who served as ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama and was previously ambassador to Syria and Iraq, among other countries.

Some conservative members of Congress have raised concerns that admitting large numbers of refugees could pose risks if militants infiltrated their ranks. And administration officials have cited constraints, including the 18 to 24 months that it takes the Department of Homeland Security to do background checks. But the letter asserts that these issues can be managed.

“We have demonstrated that it can be done in the case of the Kurds, the Kosovars and the Vietnamese,” said Mr. Schwartz, who coordinated refugee settlement efforts for such groups during the Bill Clinton administration and currently serves as the dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. “What we need is high-level political leadership. Even with a responsible D.H.S. vetting process, we can have the capability to resettle large numbers. For one thing, we need to put more money and people against these requirements.”

The United States took in 111,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979. The next year, that number grew to 207,000. Around the same time, the United States accepted more than 120,000 Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift. But the number of refugees accepted by the United States dwindled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The United States currently has an overall yearly cap on refugees of 70,000, and Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers last week that the cap should be increased to as many as 100,000.
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