Arab Americans Welcome House Committee Vote on Persian Gulf Evacuees
Washington D.C., April 18 — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American membership organization, welcomes today’s vote in the House Judiciary Committee recommending passage by the entire House of HR 3646, a bill allowing “Persian Gulf Evacuees” (PGEs) to gain permanent residency in the United States. The so-called PGEs are individuals brought to the United States by the US government following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. These were individuals who had U.S. citizen children or who were otherwise connected to the United States. A total of 2,227 persons were evacuated, the majority of whom were Palestinian. While some were able to adjust their status and gain legal residency throughout the 1990s, several hundred of the “PGEs” have spent the last decade in a legal limbo. HR 3646, introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) will allow them to at long last normalize their legal status and their lives.
Much of the information the House Judiciary Committee relied upon in its deliberations was supplied by ADC. In its report, the Committee states that ADC “informed the subcommittee that the majority of the 2,000+ original PGEs have already been able to become permanent residents through employer-sponsored visas and other means. Remaining are 54 families containing a few hundred individuals who probably do not have any means to adjust their status. Representative Rahall’s bill would grant the PGEs permanent resident status.”
The report states that “The remaining PGEs are primarily Palestinian. They have Jordanian passports and can be deported to Jordan. However, this does not necessarily mean they have ever resided in Jordan. Based on information given to the committee by the ADC, most were either born in Kuwait or have spent the last few decades of their lives there. The few non-Palestinians are Indian, Filipino, Pakistani and Egyptian. They also are reported to have been born in Kuwait or have been there for at least a decade. Many of the PGEs have American-born children.”
ADC Chair Naila Asali said “We welcome this vote in the House Judiciary Committee. ADC urges all Members of Congress to vote for final passage of HR 3646 and allow the ‘PGEs’ to finally gain the secure legal status they deserve. Today’s Committee vote is a big step in that direction. It is the fruit of four years of hard work on the part of all those whose have strived to correct this injustice, and special thanks go to Congressman Rahall for all his efforts.”
ADC urges all its members and supporters to contact their Representative and ask him/her to vote for HR 3646 when it reaches the House floor. You can use the new “Contacting Congress” section of ADC’s website to search for your member of congress and send him/her email online or find out other contact information.
TEXT OF SAMPLE LETTER:
I write to ask you to support HR 3646, a private bill providing Permanent Residency to Certain Persian Gulf Evacuees (PGEs). The bill has been recommended to the House by the full Judiciary Committee. The PGEs are persons evacuated by the U.S. government from Kuwait and brought to the United States in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion. They were evacuated because they have U.S. citizen children in their families or because they were employees of a U.S. embassy, or were otherwise connected to the United States. They have been living in the United States since 1990, but a number of families among them have been unable to adjust their status to permanent residency.
These people must not be kept in this untenable situation any longer. They were brought to this country by our government, and it is our clear moral obligation to them to normalize their status in the United States. This leads to hardship in the sense that they cannot plan their future or travel outside the country.
I ask you to do the right thing and support HR 3646.
Excerpts from the House Judiciary Committee’s Report Recommending Passage of HR 3646:
House Report 106-580 – To accompany H.R. 3646
April 13, 2000
R E P O R T
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the bill (H.R.3646) for the relief of certain Persian Gulf evacuees, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY
H.R. 3646, for the relief of certain Persian Gulf evacuees would allow certain individuals who were evacuated from Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War to file for permanent resident status.
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR THE LEGISLATION
As Interpreter Releases reports:\1\
\1\November 18, 1991.
rom September 2, 1990, to December 14, 1990, the U.S. airlifted from Kuwait thousands of persons who either had U.S. citizen children or who secretly protected U.S. citizens during the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. A total of 2,227 persons were evacuated . . . the majority were Palestinian. . . . The evacuees were initially paroled into the U.S. and given temporary work authorization. Parole was eventually extended until December 31, 1991. . . . n INS official informed the evacuees that the INS would not renew their parole beyond December 31. Their situation was worsened by the Kuwaiti government’s refusal to allow many of the evacuees, especially Palestinians, to return to Kuwait, arguing that they had been disloyal during the Iraqi occupation.
On November 1, 1991, several members, including the Subcommittee on International Law, Immigration and Refugees chairman and ranking member, sent a letter to Attorney General Barr urging him to:
grant to the approximately 1,500 persons of Palestinian background airlifted into the United States from Kuwait during the fall of 1990. We strongly believe that extraordinary conditions exist for these 1,500 persons. . . . Our government evacuated these families because of their close ties to the United States and because of the fear that they would be endangered by the Iraqi Army. Many of the children are American citizens. The Government of Kuwait refuses to let these families return and their permission to stay and work in the United States expires on December 31, 1991. Based on the foregoing, we urge you to grant TPS to these Palestinian families for an initial period of one year while we await developments in Kuwait.
On November 14, 1991, President Bush directed the Attorney General to grant the Persian Gulf Evacuees (“PGEs”) a deferral of enforced departure until January 1, 1996, and employment authorization for that period. President Clinton later extended the deadline until January 1 of 1997. The INS decided that no further extensions would be granted.\2\
\2\Senators Kennedy and Abraham wrote Janet Reno on April 3, 1997, urging that the deferred enforced departure be further extended.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (“AAADC”) informed the subcommittee that the majority of the 2,000+ original PGEs have already been able to become permanent residents through employer-sponsored visas and other means. Remaining are 54 families containing a few hundred individuals who probably do not have any means to adjust their status. Representative Rahall’s bill would grant the PGEs permanent resident status. It was originally written as a public bill, not a private bill.
Pursuant to an agreement between the Judiciary Committee and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), upon a vote of the subcommittee to request a report from I.N.S. any deportation of the individual or individuals named in the bill will be stayed until the Congress has made a decision on action. The chairman of the subcommittee requested that the bill be introduced as a private bill so that the subcommittee could vote to request INS comment and stay the deportation of these individuals while proceeding with caution and investigating the merits of each PGE’s case. Also, because of the documentary requirements of a private bill, the subcommittee was provided with detailed information on each of the beneficiaries, and confirmed that all administrative and judicial remedies had been pursued.
The remaining PGEs are primarily Palestinian. They have Jordanian passports and can be deported to Jordan. However, this does not necessarily mean they have ever resided in Jordan (which gives passports to all Palestinians). Based on information given to the committee by the AAADC, most were either born in Kuwait or have spent the last few decades of their lives there. The few non-Palestinians are Indian, Filipino, Pakistani and Egyptian. They also are reported to have been born in Kuwait or have been there for at least a decade. Many of the PGEs have American-born children.
On March 1, 2000, the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims met in open session and ordered favorably reported the bill H.R. 3646, without amendment by voice vote, a quorum being present. On March 30, 2000, the Committee on the Judiciary met in open session and ordered reported favorably the bill H.R. 3646 without amendment by voice vote, a quorum being present.