Press Releases

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.” 

Congressman Smith Statement on Veterans Day

Congressman Smith released the following statement today in recognition of Veterans Day:

November 11, 2015

“On Veterans Day, we honor the brave and heroic service of all of our veterans. The men and women of our Armed Services risk their lives around the world every day to protect our freedoms and keep us safe.  In return, it is critical that we ensure that they and their loved ones are cared for when they return home.  I am honored to represent thousands of veterans who live in the 9th District in Washington state.

Congress should do everything possible to ensure that the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who serve our country come home to good, family-wage job opportunities and receive the care and assistance that they earned. I look forward to working with both the veterans in our community and my colleagues in the House of Representatives to improve the lives of those who have served.”

Congressman Adam Smith Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

Congressman Smith released the following statement about the need to comprehensively reform our criminal justice system, highlighting current efforts at the federal level that can begin the process:

November 6, 2015

“The American criminal justice system is fundamentally broken.

“As a nation, we incarcerate more of our own citizens than any other country in the world – often times for non-violent drug offenses. Past reforms meant to keep our communities safer have resulted in disproportionately high incarceration rates among people of color, splitting families apart and helping to perpetuate cycles of poverty. Despite the creation of innovative tools at the local level in King County to institute diversionary “safety valve” mental health, drug rehabilitation, and veterans treatment courts, these resources do not currently exist at the federal level. Communities of color still face disproportionate mandatory minimum sentences, with charges often stacking on top of one another. The vast majority of inmates leaving prison face long-term unemployment, with employers often unwilling to consider them due to their records. Make no mistake, I believe that the justice system must work to protect the innocent, and hold those committing crimes accountable – but a central goal of our corrections system must also be rehabilitation and reintegration. As a society, we must do more.

“As a former prosecutor, I have had a unique exposure to the intricacies of our judicial system. The men and women who work in law enforcement, as prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and corrections officers shoulder the immense duty of keeping our communities safe. These individuals must balance this responsibility while at the same time assuring that the system remains fair and balanced, and that individuals are treated and judged equally under the law.  I believe the time has come to make important adjustments to the way we handle criminal justice in our country.

“I applaud the President’s recent statements on the need for criminal justice reform, including his Executive Action to “ban the box” on initial paperwork for federal employment applications, which mirrors legislation that I became a cosponsor of earlier this year. Banning the box is a good start, however, there is no singular solution—we must make across-the-board changes if we are to truly reform our broken justice system and begin to address the unintended negative consequences of the 1994 Crime Bill. This bill has been criticized for its enactment of mandatory minimum sentences and other reforms that have disproportionately harmed disadvantaged communities.

“To address our broken system, I have laid out a “roadmap” of criminal justice reform initiatives to make improvements throughout the judicial system. Congress should pass the SAFE Justice Act, a comprehensive bill that I cosponsored which utilizes evidence-based, state-tested reforms across the spectrum of criminal justice – from sentencing reform and safety valve programs, to changes in post-release supervision. I support establishing federal grant programs for Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) because we must work with and support our men and women in law enforcement, promoting accountability and transparency. I also strongly support funding for legal help to low income individuals, as well as legislation that implements evidence-based changes in our prisons and supports the reentry of those who have completed their sentences back into society. Leveling the playing field on federal job applications by “banning the box” is a crucial step, but we must go further.

“As we work towards common-sense reforms to our criminal justice system, I greatly value the continuing information, opinions and experiences shared with me by my constituents about these critical topics. We must chart a new course if we are to build a stronger tomorrow.”

“Congressman Smith will be an invaluable partner in building support across party lines to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform,” stated Congressman Bobby Scott, the lead Democratic cosponsor of the SAFE Justice Act.  “His dedication to educating our colleagues about evidence-based practices and addressing the underlying causes of recidivism have been a great help as we continue to push for meaningful reform in Congress.”