This afternoon Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a debate on Republican legislation aimed at stopping the resettlement of Syrians and Iraqis into the United States. Needing 40 votes to stop the bill, 43 Democratic Senators voted to do just that (all but Senators Manchin and Heitkamp). The following is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
In the face of repeated attempts by the Republican majority in the Senate to pass anti-refugee and anti-immigrant legislation, Senate Democrats have repeatedly and effectively rebuffed these efforts. Today was no different. The Republican leadership brought up a bill that passed the House of Representatives last November in the wake of the Paris attacks. Under the guise of a “pause” and “enhanced accountability” the bill would have ground to a halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees. But Senate Democrats stood up and defended a resettlement program that rescues refugees, enhances our standing in the world and strengthens communities throughout America. We thank Leader Reid and all the Democrats who stopped this ill-considered bill.
Since taking the majority, the Republicans in Congress have made a number of such high-profile attempts to go after refugees and immigrants. Initially, they tried to hold DHS funding hostage in order to eviscerate the President’s November 2014 executive actions. Democrats stayed strong and the effort failed. Republicans then tried to exploit a tragic killing in San Francisco to penalize cities with immigrant-friendly community policing strategies (the so-called “sanctuary cities” legislation). Democrats stayed strong and the effort failed. Republicans then tried to stop the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Democrats stayed strong and the effort failed.
The GOP sprint to the hard right is not terribly surprising. With Senator Sessions and Rep. Steve King driving the agenda in Congress, and Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz setting the agenda on the campaign trail, the Republican Party is becoming an avowedly anti-immigrant party. It didn’t have to be this way. Immigration reform was on the verge of enactment in 2014, the Senate had passed a centrist bipartisan bill by a 2-1 margin, and a majority in the House favored a similar reform package. But the House Republicans chickened out, the nativist right got its way, and the party’s dark forces, once marginalized, became rampant.
At the end of the day, the voters will have their say. We seem to be heading for an election in 2016 that will feature a matchup between a party that believes in tolerance, acceptance and an embrace of those who come to America to make us stronger, and a party that scapegoats immigrants and practices white identity politics. In the America of today, we believe the majority will defeat the forces of bigotry and exclusion and stand up for our nation’s genius – the fact that we are permanently evolving and striving to become a more perfect union. We will do our part to make it so.