WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced legislation to make Uyghurs who have been persecuted by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) eligible for priority refugee processing in the United States. The Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act would make it easier for Uyghurs and members of other Turkic or Muslim minority groups to apply for resettlement in the United States, and it encourages our allies and partners to implement similar policies.
The introduction of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act comes after the two senators led a bipartisan group urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take additional measures to assist Uyghurs and other Turkic or Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. In addition, last month Coons and Rubio introduced a resolution condemning the PRC government for its treatment of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and calling for an international investigation into the abuses and crimes committed there. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
“The United States must continue to speak out against the PRC’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and we must also provide assurance and protection for the Uyghurs and all those facing persecution as a result of their religious or ethnic identity,” said Senator Coons, co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus. “To effectively compete with China, we must be the best version of ourselves, including by living our values and welcoming those who have been unjustly imprisoned in or forced to flee Xinjiang.”
“As the CCP is committing egregious human rights violations, including genocide and crimes against humanity, urgent action is needed to end the atrocities and assist Uyghurs and others facing persecution in Xinjiang,” said Senator Rubio. “I’m proud to join Senator Coons in introducing this bill to grant Uyghurs with priority refugee status.”
The bill is endorsed by Niskanen Center, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Refugees International, Uyghur Human Rights Project, American Jewish Committee, and Freedom to Believe.
"Refugees International applauds today's bipartisan introduction of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act in the Senate,” said Hardin Lang, vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International. “The bill highlights the documented persecution of the Uyghur population and provides additional protection measures at a critical time. Priority 2 status for refugee resettlement in the United States will provide an important lifeline, particularly for those Uyghurs who have already fled China yet continue to face persecution.”
“Horrific persecution and repression by the Chinese government on over 11 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region — including the use of internment camps and forced sterilization — has been rightfully recognized by the U.S. as constituting genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Kristie De Peña, Niskanen’s vice president of policy and director of immigration. “The Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act is a necessary complement to that designation and the U.S.’ accompanying sanctions that allows us to work with our global partners to protect refugees in the region who fear persecution and death.”
“Support for this legislation will be essential in an active response to the genocide Uyghurs are now facing,”said Omar Kanat, Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “If governments are serious about responding to the crisis, they must embrace these kinds of measures to ensure that Uyghurs abroad cannot be forcibly returned to China to face persecution and detention. This legislation would empower the U.S. government to rescue vulnerable Uyghurs who have escaped China’s genocide.”
“The Jewish community is all too familiar with the plight of the refugee. American leadership is critical to ensure that Uyghurs seeking asylum receive greater protection from the very serious risk of being returned to imprisonment, torture, or persecution,” Felice Gaer, Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. “This bill, by affording that protection, upholds American values and international human rights norms.”
“The persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese government is a grave human rights violation and requires immediate action,” Diliman Abdulkader, Advisor to Freedom to Believe. “The Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act is a timely and critical component to ensuring ethnic minorities in the region are protected from crimes and abuses by the CCP.”
The bill text is available here.