A small delegation of American Circassians recently met with representatives of Robert Menendez, US Senator (Democrat), representing the State of New Jersey in the US Congress. Senator Menendez sits on the Committee on Foreign Relations, currently lead by John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts), who ran for President of the United States of America in 2004.
The Circassian delegation met with Senator Menendez to ask for humanitarian relief for Syrian Circassians presently in harm’s way; specifically, the delegation asked that the United States consider granting asylum to several groups of Circassians: 1) those Circassians of Syrian birth already in the United States; 2) Syrian Circassians presently in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, and; 3) Syrian Circassians residing in war-torn areas.
The delegations’ request was met with a degree of interest; less than 24 hours after the meeting, Senator Mendez’s office released an official request to President Obama asking for immediate assistance to all Syrian nationals presently in the United States. Specifically, the letter asked that “…Syrian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Syria, including the designation of Syria for temporary protected status (TPS).”
Under the terms of TPS, Syrian nationals (including all Circassians in the United States holding Syrian passports) would be allowed to remain in the United States for a specified period of time, and potentially indefinitely.
We eagerly wait to see how President Obama will respond to this request, but the Circassian delegation was impressed that its initial outreach was met with such a rapid and direct response.
In light of this immediate and direct response, we are cautiously hopeful that the United States might allow further assistance to Syrian Circassians presently in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, and possibly those presently in harms way in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Circassian delegation will continue to press the United States government for assistance in this matter. It is worth noting that the vast majority of Circassians in the United States are originally from Syria, and were provided entry into the United States following the Syrian-Israeli War of 1967. We can only hope that the United States repeats its generosity again.
A special thank you to Sam Mirza for organizing the delegation and coordinating the meeting. The global Circassian community owes a note of thanks to Mr. Mirza.
A copy of the letter initiated by Senator Menendez, and co-signed by five other US senators is given below.