NAFSA CEO Calls Upon Congress to Offer Safe Refuge to Syrians


Statement by Marlene M. Johnson, Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators


Rebecca Morgan, 202.737.3699 x4449,

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2015 – In response to congressional review of the impact of the Syrian refugees on the United States, Marlene M. Johnson, executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators issued the following statement:

“NAFSA urges the Administration and Congress to support policies that would welcome 100,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year, in addition to other global refugees. We also urge Congress and the Administration to take steps to ensure that Syrian students who seek higher education in the United States have a path to do so. The recent tragedies in Paris, Beirut and other cities around the world remind us that we must remain ever-vigilant against threats of violent extremism; however, closing our borders to Syrian refugees simply because they might share the same nationality as some perpetrators of terror perpetuates fear and isolationism, while failing to recognize that the refugees are desperately fleeing violence themselves.

“Our nation should move quickly to facilitate the matriculation of eligible refugee students to study at U.S. institutions of higher education. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ The United States has a proud history of promoting mutual understanding through international education and exchange. In the decades since World War II, U.S. institutions of higher education have welcomed and educated millions of students from all over the world, with many becoming world leaders and some of our closest friends and allies. These students are among our greatest foreign policy assets, for it is through their time here that they come to understand our country firsthand.

“If we fail to offer educational opportunities to qualified Syrian refugees we risk fostering the isolationism that helps to drive anti-Western sentiment. On the other hand, offering them safety and an education will build good will and cross-cultural understanding that enhances our own national security. Clearly, we must choose the latter.”

Read Johnson’s complete Congressional testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.