Remarks After Meeting With Refugees

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Silver Spring, Maryland
January 13, 2016

Well, let me just say what a special experience it is for me to come to the refugee center. The refugees I met with come from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Burma, Eritrea, Congo, various countries. And they have escaped great violence. They’ve escaped a threat to their lives and their families. And they have come here looking for the possibility of a new life. Everybody has said that – they need and want a new life.

This young fellow here and this woman and her husband have just passed their citizenship exam. They’ve been here for a while now, about five years. And every one of these people has been through a very detailed screening. I think one person described six hours of a particular interview just to begin to become qualified. They come to America, they go to work. It is a requirement that they have to find a job, any job. And they go to work and they begin to build their lives again.

I’m particularly grateful to the folks here in the community who are contributing so much to the ability of these folks to go to work, to be able to find an apartment, and begin to become American. Everyone here wants to be an American and they want to contribute as good citizens to our country. That is, as President Obama said last night, the tradition on which our country has been built. It strengthens our nation, and I am impressed by the commitment of each and every person here.

And I want to express my gratitude to the International Rescue Committee, that does so much. People come here, they work all day to help other people. There is a huge network process, beginning in the country where these people went and sought refuge and became a refugee, all the way to the moment they arrive at Dulles Airport or at Baltimore and begin to try to find their new lives. This is something Americans should be very, very proud of. I know I am, and I feel very privileged to have shared the dreams and the hopes of each of the people who are here. Thank you very much. Thank you. Good to be with you. (Applause.)