The United States has the moral obligation to work with the international community to aid vulnerable populations and defend human rights wherever they are threatened. For many, threats to basic human rights remain a constant presence in daily life. More than 65 million people around the globe have been displaced from their homes or separated from their communities and families. As the Ranking Democratic Member of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), I am acutely aware of the challenges that many countries are facing and of the urgent need for the international community to address issues of violence, while helping foster freedom and tolerance.
The United States dedicates less than one percent of our annual budget to foreign aid, yet these modest investments literally mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of millions of people surviving on pennies a day. U.S. humanitarian assistance programs including food aid, shelter, safe drinking water, urgent medical care, and other relief benefits nearly 13.5 million people worldwide. This helps many nations meet the needs of their citizens, in turn allowing foreign governments to address other issues ranging from infrastructural deficiencies to civil liberties. By combating poverty and disease, providing humanitarian assistance, promoting human rights, and fostering economic development, these programs build a more stable and safer world, which in return helps ensure prosperity and security here at home.
The ongoing crisis in Syria is a stark reminder of the needs of refugees and those who have been displaced worldwide. Within Syria, nearly 14 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, approximately 70 percent of the country total population. Government fighter jets and helicopters supported by the Assad regime have targeted hospitals and residential buildings with both conventional and non-conventional weapons, including chemical weapons, claiming the lives of more than half a million people. I was one of the first Members of Congress to call for a U.S.-backed no-fly zone to protect the civilians of Syria. Since then, I have continued to advocate for increased humanitarian aid to benefit those most harmed by the conflict.
I have fought consistently to ensure the fair treatment for Haitian refugees and those benefiting from Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In the past, I have sponsored legislation that would stop the interdiction and return of Haitian refugees to Haiti and continue to advocate for the commitment of U.S. dollars to be used as socio-economic and peacekeeping assistance to Haiti.
President Donald John Trump’s Muslim Ban
I believe that the travel ban enacted by President Trump, which suspends the refugee programs from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, is contradictory to our American values. No matter how you repackage it, this executive order is still immoral, discriminatory, unconstitutional, and un-American. Doubling down on this shameful policy will not make America safer – rather, it will put Americans at risk.