Senate Panel Seeks Asylum for Iraqis; Flow Stalled by '03 Security Rules
Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Senators yesterday urged a State Department official to expedite the flow of Iraqi refugees into the U.S., a process that has been slowed to a trickle by security measures designed to stop terrorists from entering the country.
"One of the reasons you are seeing so few Iraqis come into the United States since 2003 is because of an enhanced security review," said Ellen R. Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration policy.
During Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's rule, about 37,000 Iraqis were granted asylum in the U.S., she told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Since Congress passed a 2003 law mandating stricter screening of immigrants, however, only 466 Iraqis have made their way to America, she said.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis has been brewing in the war-torn country, Mrs. Sauerbrey said. One million to 2 million of Iraq's roughly 27 million people have been displaced by an increasingly vicious sectarian conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnis.
"We bear a heavy responsibility for their plight," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and committee member. "America must respond."
Mrs. Sauerbrey said the refugee crisis began to develop in February, when the bombing of a prominent Shi'ite mosque in the city of Samarra heightened sectarian fighting.
"I came into my position just about exactly a year ago, and at that time, we were touting the fact that repatriation was so successful because most of the resources that we were sending at that time were to return people. And a very large number of Iraqis were returning to Iraq," Mrs. Sauerbrey said.
Mr. Kennedy and Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, pressed Mrs. …