Wexton Leads Introduction of Bipartisan Legislation to Grant Priority Refugee Status to Uyghurs Fleeing Persecution in China
Washington, June 7, 2023
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced the bipartisan Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act to designate Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region suffering persecution at the hands of the Chinese government as priority refugees and expedite their ability to apply for asylum in the United States.
“The horrific atrocities that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are facing at the hands of the Chinese government are a global human rights emergency, and the United States cannot turn our back to those fleeing this persecution,” said Rep. Wexton. “I’ve heard firsthand from Uyghur constituents about their fears for their relatives trying to escape the horrors in Xinjiang. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to give those suffering this oppression hope for a path to expedited refugee status and asylum.”
“The Uyghur Genocide perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party is one of the most horrific crimes against humanity we have ever witnessed,” said Rep. Salazar. “Our refugee system was designed to provide protection to those who need it most. We must ensure this system is ready to receive those that are able to escape the systematic persecution and torture Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities are suffering from in Xinjiang.”
“The United States cannot simply condemn Beijing for its genocide and pat itself on the back,” said Rep. Meeks. “We have a moral and international responsibility to offer aid and assistance to those that are trying to escape the PRC’s atrocities in Xinjiang. Providing expanded refugee protections to Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities is the right thing to do and a clear way to demonstrate that America walks the talk when it comes to human rights.”
The bipartisan legislation would provide Priority 2 (P-2) designation to Uyghurs seeking to escape the horrific repression currently being waged by the Chinese Communist Party. P-2 designation is used for those refugees of special humanitarian concern to the U.S. who have pressing need for resettlement and swift access to the U.S. asylum process. The bill also seeks to protect Uyghur refugees who have fled to countries outside of China besides the U.S., directing the U.S. Secretary of State to prioritize diplomatic efforts in those countries who often face intense pressure from the Chinese government to extradite Uyghurs back to China.
“Designating residents of the Uyghur Region Priority 2 refugee status of special humanitarian concern is a long-overdue acknowledgement of the horrific conditions faced by the Uyghur people. The Chinese Communist Party's ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs cannot be ignored, and this bill is a crucial step towards holding them accountable for their atrocities. I strongly urge Congress to pass this bill immediately and send a clear message to the CCP that the world will not tolerate their flagrant violations of human rights. The Uyghur community has suffered far too long, and it is time for action to be taken to provide them with the protection and relief they so desperately need,” said Rushan Abbas, Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU).
The U.S. government has deemed the oppression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities by the Chinese government as a genocide. The years-long systematic discrimination has included the arbitrary detention of an estimated one million Uyghurs with evidence of forced labor, forced sterilization, torture, and denial of cultural and religious practices. Wexton has been a leader in the bipartisan efforts to shine a light on these gross human rights abuses and stand up for Uyghurs, including helping to pass into law the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Wexton’s district in Northern Virginia is home to one of the largest Uyghur diaspora populations in the U.S.
Campaign for Uyghurs has endorsed the legislation.
The full text of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act can be found here.