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Congressman Tom Garrett

Representing the 5th District of Virginia

Thoughts from my recent visit with members of the German Bundestag

February 27, 2017
Weekly Columns

The past election cycle thrust refugee and immigration issues into the spotlight more so than any time in recent years. A very charged and polarized political climate has left little room for compromise on either side of the aisle and I have been working extremely hard to balance international humanitarian issues with national security and the needs of the United States.

As such, I took the opportunity last week, while Congress was out of session, to meet with members of the German Bundestag to discuss refugee and immigration issues. With Germany leading the charge on accepting refugees, it seemed most appropriate to get their take on the issue now that the country has started seeing the impact from their approach.

Much of what I learned and saw echoed concerns I have as America continues working to improve our refugee policies. As I have said from the beginning, the President did a poor job in rolling out several executive orders, including the orders on refugees. However, I agree with the general premise of freezing programs temporarily to appropriately address any gaps or areas for concern.

Our nation is still struggling with unemployment, the potential for lone wolf attacks, skyrocketing debt and bloated entitlement programs. Bringing in refugees in droves before working to address the financial and security impacts of these decisions is reckless.

However, after meeting with government officials in Germany and with Syrian refugees themselves, I remain convinced that we do need to work as quickly as possible to close any gaps in vetting procedures and restore these programs. The U.S. must fulfill our role in accepting refugees while demanding that others take their appropriate role and the security of the American people is not sacrificed in the process.

Another scheduled portion of this trip, which was not released publicly for fear of disrupting negotiations for the release of a Czech missionary, involved a follow-up meeting with the Czech Deputy Foreign Minister.

For background purposes, last month, several constituents reached out to me concerned about one Czech missionary being sentenced to 20 years and two local Sudanese pastors to 10 years each for filming government persecution against missionaries and Christians in the Sudan.

Over the past week, I met with Ambassadors from both the Czech Republic and the Sudan to expedite the unjust imprisonment of these three individuals. Just yesterday it was announced that Mr. Petr Jasek, the Czech national, had arrived safely in Prague after being released.

I am very happy to have contributed to the release of Mr. Jasek but will be working in the coming weeks to secure the release of the two Sudanese pastors and expedite refugee status under the J-2 visa program.

A very detailed newsletter including many pictures will be on our website later this week outlining specific aspects of this trip.

For any questions, concerns or comments, please call my office at 202-225-4711 or visit www.tomgarrett.house.gov. There, you will be able to find more information about this trip.

- Tom Garrett