Press Releases

Washington State Leaders: Reject Fear & Panic Surrounding Refugee Resettlement

SEATTLE, WA. — Elected officials and community leaders from across Seattle and Washington State called for on citizens to reject fear and panic following weeks of harmful and discriminatory rhetoric aimed at refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. Citing Washington State’s long history of opening its doors and providing equal opportunity to those seeking a safe haven and a chance at a better life, Washington State leaders urged the community to remember the longstanding history of Washington State serving as a place of refuge, making us one of the most inclusive and diverse states in the country.

November 24, 2015

Washington State Leaders: Reject Fear & Panic Surrounding Refugee Resettlement

“The senseless violence that has recently occurred in Paris and Beirut has understandably made people fearful and afraid. But we as a community cannot let the fear and panic that has recently gripped our political debate blind us from doing what is right. I commend Governor Inslee for seeing past the political gamesmanship and joining a long list of Washington State leaders who have compassionately opened the doors to our state to those escaping hardship and despair. Instead of trying to score cheap political points at the expense of honest and hard working families trying to flee a war zone, we should see it as our personal and social responsibility as a country built by immigrants to welcome and protect them,” said Congressman Jim McDermott.

“We are a state – and a nation – that has always taken the path of promoting freedom and being a beacon of hope and refuge for those fleeing persecution. We’ve hewed to those values even in troubled times, and when we haven’t, we’ve regretted it. We regret that we succumbed to fear. We regret that we lost moorage for who we are as a country. Washington state will continue to promote freedom and be a beacon of hope. We will not succumb to fear or those who try to turn us against those most in need of our help,” said Governor Jay Inslee

“I am proud to join so many in Seattle and across Washington state in our fight to keep our state safe, secure, and free of hate in all of its forms. In Washington state, we understand that immigrants and refugees who come to build better lives for themselves and their families make our state stronger, more vibrant, and more prosperous. We believe that in Washington state, and everywhere, people should be free from hatred and violence no matter where they came from, what their immigration status is, who they love, or where they live. Our country faces serious threats from those who oppose our commitment to openness and tolerance—but we can fight back and do everything possible to keep our families safe without slamming the door on women, children, and families who are fleeing from hatred and violence themselves, and without tossing aside those Washington state and American values that we hold so dear,” said Senator Patty Murray.

“The refugee resettlement program is the most scrutinized path of entry into the United States.  It involves multiple background checks and can take years. We should remain diligent in our refugee screening, but we must not forget that these people are victims of war and unspeakable violence?. Washingtonians have long had the compassion and courage to welcome people escaping violence and extremism from all parts of the world, of all faiths and backgrounds. I ?am working with my colleagues in the Senate to introduce legislation aimed at strengthening security measures in the visa waiver program and equip our immigration offices with better technology to collect biometric data and other information that will help unmask extremist threats to our communities. Since the founding of this great nation, we have welcomed those seeking freedom and liberty.  Now, we must have the strength of a nation created by the diversity and ingenuity of immigrants, and welcome those in need who are granted legal entry to this country,” said Senator Maria Cantwell.

“The terror attacks that have taken place throughout the world in recent weeks highlight the continued challenge we face in the fight against terrorist networks. The international community, and the states of our union, must continue to stand united in our common goal of combating extremism if we are to defeat the terror networks that seek to do us harm. As we fight terrorism we must remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and not let terrorist groups define or change who we are. We cannot let fear cloud our judgement, drive policy or destroy the fabric of what America stands for. Rhetoric that proposes excluding all Muslim refugees feeds the anti-American narrative and empowers ISIS to wrongly paint the American people as anti-Islamic.  During times of controversy, we need to remember that we are a nation that continually strives for equal protection for all. As we face and address terrorist threats, we must stay true to the values enshrined in our Constitution, and remember the phrase on the Great Seal of the United States: out of many, one. Today, we say to the diverse community of Washington state, comprised of many immigrants and refugees: we stand with you. Whether you worship in a mosque, a synagogue, a church, or not at all, you are welcome here,” said Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09).

“Fear is an understandable response to violence and terror. Rather than letting fear drive the way we treat each other, we should undermine terror by living up to American values and helping those feeling violence in Syria and elsewhere throughout the world. Washington state has a long history of welcoming refugees and helping those in need find safety and opportunity for themselves and their families. I am proud to be from a state that recognizes the important contributions that refugees and immigrants make in our communities. I am hopeful that we can continue to lead our country in welcoming people who have lost their homes and are seeking the same things we all want: hope, dignity and opportunity for our families,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02).

“What happened in Paris was a tragedy. But if we start rejecting families fleeing violence because of where they are from or their religious beliefs, we will be going against our values and playing into the hands of the terrorists,” Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) said. “We must not let fear or ignorance undermine our country’s long tradition of tolerance, openness and opportunity for all who seek refuge in our borders. The safety of Americans is my top priority but we don’t need to close our doors to Syrian women and children to keep Americans safe.”

“We must do everything in our power to keep Americans safe. Not only would the bill passed by the House have made it harder for desperate women and children to find safety, it would divert law enforcement and intelligence assets away from those who pose the greatest threat to our security, and instead require investigations of people we know pose no risk. While the attacks in Paris are terrible and it’s critical to keep all Americans safe and secure, it is also important in times like these to remember our values and to continue to serve as a beacon of freedom for the world,” said Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06).

“After the tragic attacks and loss of life in Paris, it is paramount the cowardly extremists be held accountable for their actions. We must remember however, that the goal of these extremists is to remove us from our founding principles of treating everyone equally under the law, never discriminating on the basis of religion, and welcoming the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We must be led by our values and refuse to be led by fear and ignorance,” said Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10).

“Seattle remains a welcoming city for refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “These families are seeking a safe community to raise their children and build a new peaceful, prosperous life. We must continue to live our American values. We remember the words written on the Statue of Liberty, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”



Ranking Member Adam Smith Statement on Terrorist Attacks in Mali

Ranking Member Adam Smith released the following statement on the terrorist attack in Mali:

November 23, 2015

Today I join our nation and the world in mourning those who lost their lives in Friday's terror attacks in Mali. During this difficult time, my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those killed and injured. I extend my sincere thanks to the diplomatic security staff and members of the United States military who assisted in the evacuation efforts, as well as the French and Malian military forces for their heroic actions during the hostage situation in Mali. 

We must be unrelenting in our fight against terrorism.  We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to the terror attacks taking place throughout the world. The international community must continue to stand united in our common goal of combating extremism if we are to defeat the terror networks that seek to do us harm. 

Ranking Member Adam Smith Statement on Syrian Refugee Bill Offered by Chairman McCaul

Ranking Member Adam Smith released the following statement in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and proposed legislation to amend the U.S. refugee admission process:

November 18, 2015

Our number one priority is protecting the United States and the American people from terrorist attacks.  In the strongest possible terms, I condemn the cowardly attacks in Paris and send my deepest sympathies to the victims.  As we fight terrorism, we must stay true to the values enshrined in our Constitution, remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and not let terrorist groups define or change who we are. The attacks in Paris highlight the continued challenge we face in the fight against terrorist networks.  

We must be very clear about what our current standards for refugees are. The United States thoroughly vets all refugees. For most refugee applicants, the process takes between 18-24 months. Applicants for refugee status are held to the highest level of security screening through which we evaluate travelers or immigrants to the United States. If as a result of the security process, U.S. security agencies cannot verify details of a potential refugee’s story, that individual cannot enter the United States.

Of the millions of law-abiding Syrian refugees, less than 1,800 have been resettled in the United States.  Refugees are subjected to a stringent, in-depth interagency vetting process that includes health checks, verifications of biometric information to confirm identity, and multiple layers of biographical and background checks, along with in-person interviews by U.S. officials.  Members of this interagency team includes the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Defense.  These checks happen before an application is approved and long before a refugee would be able to enter the United States. 

We cannot let fear cloud our judgement, drive policy or destroy the fabric of what America stands for. We need to be strong and smart to fight terrorism.  Excluding all Muslim refugees feeds the anti-American narrative and empowers ISIS to wrongly paint the American people as anti-Islamic.  If we turn our backs on refugees, then we risk making ISIS stronger. 

The Republican Syrian Refugee bill that will be debated on the House floor would immediately shut down resettlement of refugees from the Syria and Iraq region. This rash reaction ignores the fact that all of the Paris attackers identified thus far are either French or Belgian and that many terrorist threats are homegrown. It is wrong to deny asylum to refugees on the basis of inaccurate assumptions, fear and prejudice.

We must continue to stand strong as an international community. As we face and address terrorist threats, we need to remember the phrase on the Great Seal of the United States:  “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one.  This means refugees from Syria and Iraq who are fleeing terrible conditions and persecution too.  As we move forward, let us unite to use the tools at our disposal - diplomatic, military, intelligence, and development - to defeat extremism and the terrorism it breeds.



Congressman Smith Applauds Funding to Provide Housing for Homeless Veterans

Washington D.C. – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) has awarded $83,860 in project based vouchers for King County Housing Authority and $67,576 for Seattle Housing Authority.

November 17, 2015

There is an epidemic of homelessness in our community. This crisis is having a terrible impact on our region and combatting it is critical to addressing inequities in our society. Earlier this month, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed a state of emergency to address homelessness.  Any solution to the increasing plight of the homeless in our community must include a focus on the veterans who have risked their lives to protect our freedoms and keep us safe.

“We have made strides toward ending veterans’ homelessness in Seattle, reducing veterans without permanent housing by two-thirds, but we have more work to do,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Even one veteran sleeping on our streets is too many. These additional federal supports are welcome aid to those in need.”

“I was extremely pleased to see that VASH has awarded project-based vouchers for our veterans community to ensure that they have access to housing,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Veterans and their families face a unique set of challenges and Congress must do everything possible to ensure that the men and women who serve our country receive the care and assistance that they earned.”

In King County, these 11 vouchers will be used at the Multi-Service Center (MSC) Veterans Housing Project in Federal Way. MSC broke ground on the project in June 2015 and the building will be ready for occupancy by mid-summer 2016. Vital services will be offered onsite and occupants will receive an array of services linked to the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Amenities at the Veterans Housing Project will include on-site parking, an exercise room, community rooms, computer labs, and security.

“These vouchers provide important additional support for our efforts to end homelessness among our veterans in Washington State,” said Stephen Norman, Executive Director of King County Housing Authority. “We very much appreciate Congressman Smith’s unwavering commitment to truly bringing our troops home.”

The award from the HUD – VASH will enable the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) to subsidize an additional 10 studio apartments in the Lake City area as housing for homeless veterans in the. Homeless veterans in urgent need of housing will be identified in partnership with the Veterans Administration for placement in one of the 10 designated VASH project-based voucher apartments at the 75-unit McDermott Place complex, where they will pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities.

In addition to housing, veterans will work with a Sound Mental Health case manager to receive coordinated mental health care and other support services, so they receive the treatment and skills they need for successful independent living. Those veterans who are able to work will also have access to economic self-sufficiency training.

“This HUD – VASH award means that we can get 10 additional homeless men or women who have served our country off the streets of Seattle and into a home that is safe and warm,” said Andrew J. Lofton, Executive Director at the Seattle Housing Authority. “At McDermott Place they will receive respect and will be part of a caring community that offers a unique model of coordinated services to support them on a path to stability.”

Congressman Smith recognizes that it is essential that we tackle the growing problem of housing insecurity and homelessness in our region. Housing and community development are key to citizens' quality of life and Congressman Smith supports empowerment zones and other incentive-based programs to encourage investment and development in communities in need.

Congressman Smith applauds Senator Patty Murray’s Homeless Veterans Services Protection Act, federal legislation that would ensure access to critical services for homeless former service members. Many who have served in combat zones are impacted by post-traumatic stress – sometimes leading to them being discharged from the military without receiving the critical mental health and rehabilitative care that they so badly need. This bill would prevent the enactment of a Veterans Administration policy that could block homeless veterans on the street from accessing critical resources.  Senator Murray’s legislation would also set VA policy that allows essential outreach programs to help the men and women who have sacrificed for our nation. Congress must continue to develop policies that reduce homelessness and create a better future for our veterans and for all Americans.

Ranking Member Adam Smith Statement on Terrorist Attacks in Paris

Washington D.C. – Congressman Smith released the following statement on the terrorist attacks in Paris:

November 13, 2015

“My thoughts are with the people of France after tonight's brutal terrorist attacks. While the extent of the attacks is still unknown, these horrific acts of terror highlight the continued challenge we face in the fight against terrorist networks. We must stand strong as an international community and remain steadfast in our belief that freedom and justice will prevail.”