Refugee Congress Delegate Speaks at Congressional Hearing on the U.S. Refugee Program


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2020

WASHINGTONYesterday the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee held a hearing on the current state of the U.S. refugee program.

At the hearing, several witnesses discussed the benefits of the refugee resettlement program and concerns about the current Administration’s attempts to dismantle what has been a popular bipartisan program.

The Administration has significantly reduced the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S., allowed states and localities to block refugee resettlement and taken other actions that threaten the program.

Refugee Congress Board Member and Delegate (Nevada) Biar Atem, a resettled refugee from South Sudan, was one of the witnesses at the hearing. Atem discussed his experience walking 1,000 miles at age seven to get to a refugee camp and spending 14 years in a refugee camp before having the opportunity to come to the U.S. and find a permanent home.

“This country has been a life-saving force for us…” Atem said. “I couldn’t be more proud to be an American.”

Other witnesses at the hearing included Bishop Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodrguez, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and Chair of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Lora Ries, Senior Research Fellow on Homeland Security for The Heritage Foundation; and Barbara Strack, former Chief of the Refugee Affairs Division for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and current Advisory Member for Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program.

Strack provided information about the extensive security screening process for refugees and the need to return to an era of bipartisan support for refugee resettlement.

Atem discussed the contributions he and other refugees make to their community through employment, taxes, volunteering and more.

In his written statement, Atem wrote, “Why do the vast majority of Americans want to welcome refugees into the country? Besides the innate compassion of the American people, the answer is that Americans also know that refugees bring gratitude, and add talent to the workforce and enhance America’s diplomatic power.”

Refugee Congress submitted this statement for the record at the hearing.

Video of the hearing is available here, and copies of the witness testimony and supplementary materials are available here.



Refugee Congress is a nonpartisan national advocacy organization built and led by former refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable migrants to promote the well-being, integration and dignity of all vulnerable migrants. With delegates across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, we use our voices and experiences to inform and influence decision-makers on critical domestic and international issues that affect our communities.

Kacy Kostiuk
Communications Manager
(202) 905-6238