Bipartisan Bill to Expedite Uyghur Refugee Process Introduced
U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced legislation to provide Priority 2 refugee status for ethnic Uyghurs and others who are suffering from arbitrary arrest, mass detention, and political and religious persecution by the Chinese government. The bill expedites their ability to apply for refugee status and asylum in the United States.
For years, the Chinese government has used false pretexts to repress and discriminate against Turkic Muslims and other minority groups, particularly Uyghurs, in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and in other countries. Reports from Xinjiang describe a systematic program by the Chinese government involving the arbitrary detention of an estimated 1 million Uyghurs, torture, beatings, food deprivation, sexual assault, forced sterilization, and denial of religious, cultural, and linguistic freedoms. Senior Chinese Communist Party officials bear direct responsibility for this ongoing campaign of discrimination and gross human rights violations.
According to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, an independent U.S. government agency charged with monitoring human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, the actions taking place in Xinjiang "may constitute crimes against humanity."
This legislation will designate Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities facing repression and persecution by the Chinese government as Priority 2 Refugees. P-2 is for groups of special humanitarian concern to the United States who are designated by the U.S. government for resettlement processing and provides them direct access to the U.S. refugee system.
Refugees International and the Uyghur Human Rights Project endorse this legislation.
"The horrific stories of forced labor, internment camps, torture, starvation, and political indoctrination of Uyghurs should shake every person to their core," said Congressman Deutch, who led a bipartisan letter in October urging greater action to protect Uyghurs. “These egregious violations by the Chinese government are offensive to both American and universal values of human rights. In the United States, we have a proud history of welcoming oppressed peoples from around the world. This bill is a continuation of the best traditions of U.S. foreign policy and humanitarianism and upholds America’s image as a beacon of hope, refuge, and liberty to millions worldwide."
“The Communist regime in China brutally oppresses the Chinese people and has engaged in particularly horrific abuses against the Uyghur people,” Congressman Diaz-Balart said. “I am proud to join my dear friends and champions of human rights, Reps. Ted Deutch and Chris Smith, in providing an opportunity for Uyghurs fleeing severe repression to find safe haven in the United States. Communist China poses a grave threat to the world in a variety of ways such as IP theft, endangering public health, and bullying its neighbors, but we must also remember the harm China’s Politburo has perpetrated, and continues to inflict, on the people of China as well. This important legislation will provide an avenue for some of the world’s most persecuted individuals to escape their abusers.”
"Cultural genocide, forced labor and other atrocities which the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities are suffering at the hands of the Chinese government is a human rights crisis and demands our urgent attention," said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. "I represent one of the largest Uyghur diaspora communities in the U.S., and I have constituents who are fearful for their loved ones as they try to escape the horrors in Xinjiang. Providing an expedited process for refugee status and asylum in the United States should be an essential component of our humanitarian response to protect and save lives, even as we continue to work to hold the Chinese government accountable. I'm proud to join Rep. Deutch in this bipartisan effort."
“The United States has an admirable record of offering safety and refuge to those who are tortured and persecuted for their faith,” said Congressman Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Refugee Caucus. “In China, the Uyghurs face forced labor, concentration camps, reeducation, forced sterilization, and now reportedly, organ harvesting. The United States must not return Uyghurs to a country where they face the horrific genocide orchestrated by Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party.”