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Representative Waters Calls for Leadership on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

July 30, 2009
Press Release

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35), Chairwoman and co-founder of the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, gave the following remarks at a Helsinki Commission hearing focused on the growing Iraqi refugee crisis:

Let me first thank Chairman Hastings for his kindness in allowing me to join this important hearing today.  This is an extremely important issue, and it hasn't been getting as much attention as it deserves. As such, I'd like to commend Mr. Hastings for his leadership on this matter.

With the support of Chairman Hastings, I recently sent a letter to President Bush, signed by 89 Members of Congress, expressing our deep concern over the plight of displaced Iraqis.  In this letter, we stated:

Rarely does confronting a crisis align our moral and national security interests as closely as does providing assistance to the Iraqis displaced by violence.  There are few more important tests of our foreign policy than our leadership in response to the growing crisis confronting the displaced population of Iraq.

I hope that this letter to President Bush will continue the process that we are taking part in today of addressing the plight of the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons whose lives have been scattered around the Middle East.  The millions of Iraqis displaced from their homes by violence are becoming increasingly desperate.  Many do not have access to even the most basic resources, including food, water, and health care.  In some instances, women are reportedly turning to prostitution to provide for their families.

I wanted to briefly mention some legislation I have recently introduced.  H.R. 5488, The Recovery and Stability of Iraq Act, would address the growing crisis confronting the displaced population of Iraq by:

-Creating an Iraqi Displacement Coordinator in the Executive Office of the President, to engage U.S. diplomatic resources in addressing the crisis.

-Requiring the Coordinator to create a long-term, durable strategy to address the displacement crisis.

-Requiring the Coordinator to harmonize international efforts to address the crisis.

-Encouraging affected governments to support their own populations.

-Requiring a report from the Coordinator on the progress of the strategy and an evaluation of the conditions confronting the displaced.

It is clear that any solution to the problems in Iraq must include an organized effort to return the displaced Iraqis to a safe and stable environment.  This bill will not force refugees to return against their will; rather, it begins the long planning process necessary to prepare for eventual voluntary returns of Iraqis.  The creation of the high-level Iraqi Displacement Coordinator would send a strong signal that the United States is committed to working with the governments of the region to address the humanitarian crisis.

Allow me to thank our witnesses, and again thank the Chairman of this hearing.  I very much look forward to working with the Administration in this coming year, as well as with my fellow Members of Congress, to appropriately address the Iraqi displacement crisis.