Sponsor of Iraqi refugee bill seems clueless

Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) is sponsoring H.R. 578, a bill whose purpose is “to address the impending humanitarian crisis and potential security breakdown as a result of the mass influx of Iraqi refugees into neighboring countries, and the growing internally displaced population in Iraq, by increasing directed accountable assistance to these populations and their host countries, facilitating the resettlement of Iraqis at risk, and for other purposes.”

Ann reported on Hasting’s bill in the last Congress, HR 6496, which did not pass. This is the same bill, reintroduced in January. You’d think he could at least have tried to find out if conditions are the same as when he introduced the original bill two years ago. At that time he referred to “the growing internally displaced population in Iraq.” That was before the surge, but perhaps Hastings hasn’t noticed that Iraq is no longer in the state of emergency it was then.

Today the American Chronicle has an article which confirms Hastings’s cluelessness. Headlined “Hastings Urges a ‘Humanitarian Surge’ for Iraqi Refugee Crisis,” it tells us:

(Washington, DC) Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) gave the keynote address on the Iraqi refugee crisis at a conference presented by the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University´s Washington College of Law.

His entire short speech is printed in the article. His heart seems to be in the right place (though who can really tell, given the left’s habit of dressing up horrible legislation in compassionate words), but much of the bill makes little sense in today’s conditions. The “findings” section, which lists “facts,” says:

(4) The Iraq Study group predicted that ‘[a] humanitarian catastrophe could follow as more refugees are forced to relocate across the country and the region.’.

Well, yes, they did predict it, but that’s not what’s happening now.  So why is it relevant in this bill? Another “fact”:

(14) United States policy is to admit at least 50 percent of the refugees referred by the UNHCR.

Since when is this our policy? I thought we had a numerical cap, not a percentage of anything.

In the entire bill there is no mention of helping Iraqi refugees to resettle back home. Hastings just reintroduced the bill word for word as if nothing has changed in two years. It goes without saying that he has no clue about the condition of Iraqi refugees who have come to the United States. So it’s all about aiding the refugees where they fled to and helping vulnerable populations within Iraq, as well as increasing the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. by at least 20,000.

Hastings’s speech showed no awareness of current conditions, and could have been given two years ago. It may have been for all I know, and was recycled for this occasion. In it he says:

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador of Iraq. We had a very informative discussion about this humanitarian crisis and what it will mean for the future of Iraq. During our meeting, I conveyed my hope that the Iraqi government would take greater responsibility to help refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

And what did the Ambassador reply? If I were the Ambassador I would have said, “You stupid jerk, don’t you know we’re paying people money to come back? We’re trying to solve the housing problem. We’re trying to solve the jobs problem. We want our people back to rebuild our country.”

But he’s a diplomat. I’m sure he didn’t say that. But we don’t know what he said; Hastings doesn’t tell us.

If there are hearings on this bill, I hope somebody tells Hastings and his fellow sponsors that most of the refugees can go home. We need to help that happen. And we need to specifically help those who can’t go home, like Christians and other religious minorities. Does the State Department know? Can someone call up Hastings and tell him?

But I get the feeling from his speech that he prefers to keep shoveling money out to the UN and the NGOs.

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