tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 6, 2016 3:30pm-5:31pm EDT
will never come. also, changed us as individuals. so, for me, as a person, i was very, very lucky and i count myself as one of the luckiest because through the same organization that mariela mentioned, i was able to move to the u.s. to transfer to illinois school of technology. i was given a golden chance at rebuilding my life. i was given this opportunity along with 32 other students. here, once we got here, we always have this feeling that we should do something. we feel that no one -- of course, you do -- the governments of the world -- they do care. in london, they pledged $10 billion.
they do care but how would i tell that to one of my friends when they tell me that their right over -- life is over? i cannot translate the billions that the u.s. donated for the person who lost every confidence in the future. i cannot say it to a girl who lost her parents -- i just can't. it is very difficult. so we feel that -- i personally feel that i have a responsibility and i have a duty to do something to help create this opportunity for those people. so, and this -- i felt that the 33 students who came to chicago do share with me this vision that we do have a responsibility , we want to do something. we are all very eager to succeed, just to prove that we as syrians are not what you know about us -- it is not what you
read about us in some news outlets, we are just normal people who can do normal things. to give a tiny example, those 30 students have now gotten offers from google, apple, goldman sachs, from every big company -- and that is very difficult. if you came to the u.s. in two years and told me you are now a software engineer at google, i would not believe it -- but they are working so hard. they are doing -- they are taking that extra step to prove to the world, that extra -- there is this extra motivation for us to prove to the world that we are normal. and then at the same time, that also drives us to do things, to drive positive change to other syrians. thishat drove me to start petition, i was very frustrated that nobody was doing anything,
nobody was saying anything. it was like a problem that was very isolated from the u.s. political scene, or from the u.s. humanitarian scene. so i wanted to do this and i did it and i did it with many bunch of group of amazing people who helped us carry it forward and i am very grateful to the administration for listening to us. after all, we are like, who cares about an immigrant who came from syria two years ago? but i felt appreciated and i felt that my voice was heard. that is a step in the right direction. of course, the numbers can always be bigger and we are trying to do that. at least it was a step in the right direction. some of the thoughts that i constantly have -- do we deserve what is happening to us? this is something i constantly ask myself. do we deserve the lack of engagement from other countries
or the lack of interest, like american people or european people in our causes? my answer is, maybe yes. we do not have, we never had a civic society that can carry those causes and those topics forward. but what i am trying to say right now is that we need help to create a civic society that we never had. and, sometimes, as governments or administrations -- they tend to focus a lot on humanitarian response and they forget about the human aspect. so they focus on the humanitarian aspect but not on the human aspect. there is a lot of -- i will just give you an example. for thousands of syrians here in the united states, it takes years to process their asylum
application. so, you know how difficult and challenging this can be for a know if indoes not two years will be deported. on top of everything that you as an individual have to care about, career, where, relationship, family, you do not really know if you will be deported. it is not the ideal situation that would help those eager people to do things because they simply do not know if they can do it. another example is that -- an initiative to help syrian students in syria, we offer them free toefl classes in providing -- and we provide them mentorship and we work with them to give them scholarships. we have just started that we work with some students informally. one yesterday got his visa and
he is going to harvard. and and other guy is going to m.i.t. we are very excited. but for this very tiny organization, we are obviously trying to do something meaningful for those people to build a civic society that we aspire in the future to have for the people who are ready -- we are facing tremendous, tremendous obstacles. one is finances. so by finances i do not mean , fundraising. if they want to transfer me the money so i can transfer it somewhere else, it is -- it would be a disaster. i cannot do that because my name would be somewhere. someone will check my name and i cannot do that. the law does not help me have this financial stability. the second thing is the visa. i talked to many visa officers who served in different countries and they told me about
the system, which is the system, im not saying i want favorable treatment for syrians but it is just very, very difficult. even if you get a full scholarship from harvard you might be denied easily because the laws that are passed in congress 40 years ago just does not, there are just a lot of complications that would make it way more difficult to get somebody of visa from a country that has worn a matter how war, no matter how promising he is. so those are the things that i think about and care about. those are the things that i try to mobilize people to always do something, because of what happened to me is helping the 45,000 refugees who will come here because -- our group advocated for those people. those people who will come here
maybe one day will build the syria that we aspire. it might be the people who would transfer western values to the middle east. those might be the people who would be the next doctors, the next lawyers, journalists, philosophers to help us build this platform. so, this is what i wanted to share with you. and thank you. [applause] dr. gabaudan: george thank you , for reminding us that syria is not what we see every day on our screens. there is a much deeper soul to it. that was very powerful. congratulations on the successes you mentioned. this is great news. you are bringing us to our next speaker. today, inside syria, we will
talk about how to give assistance. who delivers, who helped their own people is syrians. no foreigner can really dare even to take the risk that you have to incur to go inside syria , so beyond your personal story, how is this movement of civil society developing inside of syria? i impressed to see how fired up am they are despite the , tremendous odds. mr. beetar: thank you very much. i love being here in georgetown. when i arrived, the first place i stayed was georgetown hotel and conference center. so, whenever i came here, i remember these happy memories about having a future. just three years ago, may 5, 2013, i will give you my diary. like let's say you are reading , my diary and you are reading may, 2013.ifth of
dear diary, i woke up today, i check my phone to see if there was electricity to charge it because we barely had or tworicity for one hours. i opened the tap to wash my face and there was no water so i had to take from our stored water and i try to clean my face and brush my hair and be decent. then imagine that you are living -- leaving your home and then start running, why? because there is a sniper two miles away, shooting every movable object or just because he sees somebody like me, he is assuming that i am with people fighting against him. so he was shooting me. and i start -- and there were hear bullets crossing pass to my ears even when i was with my mom.
nobody knows why they are shooting. i cannot ask him. and why are we still there? where can we go? my day usually starts with going to school where i work in refugee. even though i was in a city without huge fights or conflicts , but because of my work as an ngo volunteer, i was an intern syria. i worked with palestinians, , but i never thought that i would work with lebanese. i had always 10-15 hours of working. i had to go nearby where there were 1000 displaced people. we used to give them food and items, organize them. i do not know how to describe
that, it is beyond any imagination. imagine a school where each class has at least 25-30 people. just in a couple of square feet space. i was the person responsible to put them there. even beyond like -- they barely can be able to sleep there but we have no other choice. the school number was limited. we have to put as much people as we can. people in my city, i had to leave because i was a journalist and even though i was not writing or criticizing the regime or the other part, i was well known and respected in my community and that is why i was offered to work for the regime as a reporter for syrian television, which i refused. and i was also offered a writing position and i refused. being in the middle, not being with any party makes the other
withe think that you are wasother part, so my goal each day surviving until the end of the day. just like cinderella, but sunset instead of midnight, otherwise clashes start over and what we , mean by the party is, the sound of the bullets, the sound of everything. and everything starts by lasts the whole night until the next day. --n memory i have their is there is in my building, there was a tank next to my building shooting the other part and it was so noisy but i had no other choice because i want to leave my building i was trapped. there was a sniper. then after 10 days of no electricity, and with some food, and my small cat that was trying
to understand what was going on, we tried to understand what is going on, we try to get our transit and we start running across the fire of the sniper. i do not know what to add. they said everything. sometimes i have memories, flashbacks, those kind of memories. like i was remembering when i concert in ag a church in aleppo. that is where i met mariela. these memories always come to you and put you in a bad mood. i feel like anything i will do, it will be nothing compared to what i did back home. however, i would like to thank the u.s. government for two things. i came in fellowship sponsored by the state department. i was the and only syrian to get first accepted in that. and we were supposed to learn
about the community and go back and try to adopt things we have learned here in syria. unfortunately, when i came here, -- justical weapon journalist with 25,000 followers, both parties saw that i was here to be trained, so it was so dangerous for me to return. so i had to start a new life here. sometimes when they ask, are you a refugee or something, i say, technically i am a refugee because i am forced to leave my country. otherwise, i will stay there, why should i leave? but being here, although dangerous, i have to stay here. the u.s. government gave me a future by accepting me here. by given me the clemency to be here as a permanent resident.
so these kind of things give me , hope. otherwise i would be arrested or killed or kidnapped somewhere, because i refuse to raise an arm against anything else. violence will not solve anything and it is not my only point of view -- there are, like, 100,000 people who believe in the same thing, which is why my friends and colleagues have been here we -- here. we are trying to convince the american people that know all syrians believe in violence, not all of syrians want to be with the regime or the opposition or isis or whatsoever and if we have a couple hundred making poor choices by being with isis doesn't mean all syrians are . i'm here to i have a good life. i am working freelance or die and trying to be an educator. i'm trying to promote the syrian cause. i try to take advantage of being
here in d.c. to attend events about syria and syrian refugees. so i used to stand up in every event and say, look, i am syrian, i do not cause any threat. as you can see, i am not the stereotypical perspective of syria the people that you used , to see in movies, that that -- the bad guys who will bomb everything. , these are silly questions, but i want to make people know that, yes, there might be syrians among you and you might be noticing them and they will not do anything bad to you. i tried to do that, i will be honest, joining organizations -- syrian organizations here -- they are risky. part, blaming the other part -- know it is isis -- no it is -- it is not like us, ok?
it has been five years but i think nobody is right and the other is wrong. there is no ultimate villain who if we eliminate him, everybody will be happy, the hero will get yeah, and wend have the end. we have a civil war where people are fighting, trying to kill each other, so all we have to do now is try to save those who have potential and refuse to be dragged into this vacuum of violence, try to improve them, try to give them the ability to be heard and -- how much time do i have? now? really? ok, so i would like to thank you for being here. and i am celebrating that a couple of hours ago, aleppo has a cease-fire for 48 hours, so my family is still safe for 48 hours, hopefully. and lastly i would like to ask something. i would like all of you to stand up for a moment of silence for all of those who were killed in my city and in syria, and
helping that the others do not have the same fate. mr. beetar: thank you very much. [applause] dr. gabaudan: we would listen to you for more time. if we had it. i know it is painful to bring through the angst that you all of you are living. thank you for breaking that -- haveeetar: we all families. i tried to talk about a different perspective. i am talking to my family like
every moment to check that they are alive and they have horrible stories about what happened. and bombs and bullets and everything. dr. gabaudan: thank you. shelley, i forgot to mention when i introduced him, he was the head of operations for the united release agency in jordan, meeting with palestinian refugees. just to acknowledge that he has experience in the middle east. when things are difficult for refugees, the world times to blame [indiscernible] it is part of the job description it in the case of the syrian crisis, the former high commissioner and current high commissioner have tried to raise the alarm repeatedly and what sort of challenge did you face when he raised that alarm? what is your experience? mr. pitterman: thank you. it was about a year ago that we were in the same library, this
beautiful library, the former high commissioner was here and i am afraid that some of the points i am going to make, he had to make last year and the year before, much more eloquently, i'm sure -- after all, he was the high commissioner -- and the new high commissioner is doing the same. the first thing that unites us, i think the whole u.n. system of which unhcr is just one part, is to wish for peace. that has to happen. all that we do in cooperation with ngos, and there are hundreds of them, big and small, national, syrian, international, american, and european, and from elsewhere -- all we do is somehow try to relieve the pain but the solution is peace. , and 48 hours is simply not enough.
that is for sure. against the background of failure to actually come to some resolution to the war, and it is a mega war, i mean, it is not just in syria, it is in iraq and there are risks of the spillover beyond -- or until such time as the war does come to an end, our mantra as the refugee agency is of course that the international community must find ways for refugees and asylum-seekers to find safety, to have access to territory, to be able to be able to move and to be able to make their claim, to hear their story so they are not subject to forcible return and they are able, during the time that they are forced to be in exile, to have as normal a life as
possible. michel was talking about 2013 as a watermark year. it is true. over the last couple of years in the absence of sustained investment, our budgets are all underfunded, quite significantly, notwithstanding the generous support from the u.s. taxpayer and u.s. congress and in particular through the state department -- notwithstanding refugees are suffering the consequences. to improvisation. we have data from the world bank, the unhcr clearly reflecting that refugees in jordan, lebanon are in a big way -- we are talking major, 80%-90% -- living below the poverty line and that is a progressive impoverishment and and it is a sustained despair that created a situation that led so many
hundreds of thousands of people to try to find another place where they could put their children in school. it was not more complicated and motivation as you are trying for higher education for families to protect their children just as you or i would. when i was in jordan, i went to syria every opportunity i could and it was such an authentic place -- >> beautiful place. mr. pitterman: beautiful place because the food -- and, but, what was remarkable is that it really was a middle income country. now, by no means it is, a middle income country where like everybody else, they want their children to go to school they , want to have a job, they want to take care of their affairs and that was simply impossible for refugees living in jordan, lebanon and turkey, noticing the
generous policies up until then of the governments to allow them access. what has happened since is another story and i do not want to see the zero on the sheet of paper saying i'm out of time so what i would like to highlight is, nevertheless, perhaps the fact that many of you do not know. when you see the pictures of camps, from jordan that is where , the journalists and the congressional delegations, that is where visitors are able to go fairly safely. but 60% of the refugees, globally, and 90% of refugees are living outside of cans, they -- outside of camps, they are living in cities and towns or in shelters. or in renovated apartments over in just shelters and the new
development over the last several months is that, again, after considerable encouragement and advocacy, there is a shift in the recognition that something has to be done to support the host communities in order that -- in order to allow for more asylum space so that the refugees are not considered , if youd did not remain will, a burden on the local economy and on the host population. so we are hopeful, again, here, the united states has been instrumental in working with the world bank, other international financial institutions, turning the corner in that respect but really, we have to look forward now to a new way to organize humanitarian and development responses in the future when there are new emergencies. the last thing i would simply say is that, it is very important that as many refugees as possible are given the opportunity to move legally. we have heard a lot about
irregular movement and we were talking about last year, resettlement to the united states. there were not pictures of asylum officers interviewing individually a refugee for an hour and a half, taking down all of the information about their story, to validate them and to verify who they are in with a -- are and where they are coming from. no, on cnn, we saw pictures of masses of people going through the fields of croatia, macedonia, serbia, as if that is resettlement. and it is simply not the case as i am sure simon will elaborate. so it is very important that we promote resettlement, we promote other legal avenues whether it is through scholarship programs or labor migration to brazil and elsewhere to allow as many people -- they will still be the minority but to allow as many , people as possible to find safety, to build a future for their kids because that is the kind of international solidarity that it will encourage jordan and lebanon and turkey, iraq,
egypt to do as much as they have done -- to continue to do more because the war is still going on and the refugee situation, the refugee crisis will, regrettably, persist for years to come, in one from or another. so, with that, i want to acknowledge the great support we have gotten from the united states and other countries and to just say that this is a struggle that will continue for as long as the international community is unable to help syria find a peaceful resolution to this terrible war. thank you. [applause] dr. gabaudan: thank you very much. i'm quite stimulated by the note of optimism i heard in your last comment when i tend to become more depressed by the week, particularly when -- there was a special meeting on resettlement
and european countries were noncommittal despite the fact that they want people to stay outside the borders so they do not come illegally -- so we can discuss that in the panel. but thank you for your sense of optimism, that is great to have . thank you very much. simon, the u.s. has been the leader in humanitarian relief in the last 30 years, since the beginning of the syrian crisis the main donor, one of the most engaged governments and my sense is that sometimes we have the leader but we turn around and say, where's the pack? and you cannot find them. so what are the challenges you have faced in the international community to respond to the syrian crisis? mr. henshaw: thank you all for thank you all for being here today. it seems like friday afternoon because i'm taking tomorrow off. thank you for being here on what seems to me to be a friday
afternoon. i represent the humanitarian arm of the state department and one of the difficulties of working on humanitarian work is that we don't actually solve the political crises that cause the humanitarian harm in the first place but we very much hope our colleagues led by secretary kerry right now are able to achieve a peaceful resolution of the crisis because that's what will cause he most humanitarian good. the continuation of the current cessation of hostilities in all its faults is saving a lot of lives and nothing is more important than that going on. and continuing. part of that is allowing greater numbers of humanitarian shipments in to those inside syria that are in great need, 5 million people have been displaced inside syria. we were hoping the international community is able to put more pressure on the syrian government particularly
iranians to nd allow the shipments in because up to now their record has been rely, really poor. the united states is the largest contributor to humanitarian needs around the world, about $6 billion a year. that's real money. p.r.m. has budgeted half of that. the other half is controlled by use aids, office of foreign disaster assistance, our close partners, but we work in different ways. p.r.m. works very closely with international organizations. our chief partner is unhcr. we are the largest funder of the international committee for the red cross, i.o.m. international organization of migration, and the palestinian refugee organization and we work with many other organizations and also n.g.o.'s, about 9% of our funding going through n.g.o.'s. we're not just about money.
money counts and is important but we work with our diplomatic colleagues, of which i am one, to get our message out around the world to improve humanitarian care. we work with our allies and we do have allies supporting our efforts. there are people behind me standing in ex-to me in this fight. the european humanitarian organization that is part of the european union, the large european countries such as germany. u.k. i believe is the second largest contributor in the world. canada and australia play large roles. we'd like to see that expand to other countries such as china. the gulf states have made some steps forward in the recent years. we'd like to see them do more. but we use our diplomacy not just to look for more money but also to push for goals and policy changes that will help refugees around the world. e do that in such ways as --
simple ways as pushing countries to keep their borders open so refugees can come in. we also try and get them to change the ways they treat refugees once they're inside their countries. it is a tough -- that is tough because countries make great sacrifices. if you looked at turkey and lebanon and jordan, i mean, just lebanon, a quarter of its population right now is syrian refugees. can you imagine how we'd be reacting if a quarter of our population were canadians, god forbid? perhaps not a great example. it's tough to go into those governments and say, thank you very much. you're doing a great job. but you also need to let people work because if they work they can support themselves. they reduce dependency on your social services, to have dignity and be able to afford to send their children to school. by the way, could you open up
your schools for children, too? because you really don't want to have hundreds of thousands of children here for four or five years who have no education. it's not going to be very good for you. we'll help you pay for some of this. we'll contribute. the world will contribute. but you need to do a lot. it's a hard message to carry. but it's one we are carrying. next fall for the first time since the crisis began, every syrian child in jordan will be in school. so it's a big improvement. [applause] >> over half in lebanon. there is more to do in lebanon. turkey is a really different and difficult place because of the language barrier. we have a long way to go in turkey but we have made some progress. i want to talk about, how am i doing on time? two? okay. very quickly, a series of
conferences over this year, which will culminate with the president's summit on refugees. we're using these summits to push for greater world involvement in the areas that i just talked about. finally, a word on resettlement. the united states is the largest resettlement country. we resettle more refugees than all other countries put together through unhcr. but it's a small number. the total number of refugees we'll resettle each year is 1% of the world's refugee population. there is a reason for that. resettlement hasn't been seen since after the indochina crisis as a solution to refugee populations. the concentration has been supporting refugees in the countries where they first fled. what we've done is we resettle people that aren't doing well in the areas where they fled. we take the most vulnerable populations.
i just want to make the point that those that argue for us bringing in many more refugees will understand it require fundamental change in the way the system works and a good deal of money because it is very expensive to resettle refugees. nevertheless, we are increasing the number of refugees we're bringing into the country. it's been a tough year because we've had a lot of political opposition, but we've also had a lot of grass roots support for our program. it hasn't stopped the growth at all. we did 70,000 the last three years. our plan is to do 85,000 this year. and a hundred thousand next year. we'll bring in 10,000 syrians this year, which i admitted is too small a number but that number we plan to grow in the outgoing years and we hope that it's a start to a really strong syrian resettlement program. >> thank you.
>> thanks. thanks for the reminder it is not just providing money but diplomacy to improve policies and the way governments are prepared to respond in the region. i think that is very important certainly. we'd gladly acknowledge that the u.s. has been also very much a leader in that field. everybody has been extremely constructive and extremely polite to each other and extremely thankful. i remember when i was at the u.n. i was on much more turbulent panels. i would like to have a great discussion between panelists before we give the floor to all of you to ask the questions you have. and, yes. it is good to see that we talk about the future, legal pathways, etcetera. haven't we missed the boat? you know, can we still repair the level of despair in which we find the syrians when we
visitd region? if i was to ask one of you apart from thanking the u.s. government and the u.n. for what they do, what will you tell them? where did we miss the boat? what is it that you feel has gone wrong in the way the international community has responded? anything can be said very politely between decent people but i think i would like to generate some of the feelings you hear among syrian society when you speak between yourselves. hat would you like to tell us? mariela? >> i would like to say that we are desperate. we are in need of help and support. it would be great if you can kindly help us by opening the doors in front of students at least. we know a lot of people. they got full scholarships but they did not get the visa. why? the simple answer that this is because we know you are from syria. -- of e your -- you have
course we are not going to get the amazing education here to go back to -- at some point we'd go back to try to build the country. my mom applied for a visa last week. she took a longer way, 18 hours just on a bus trip. it was dangerous on the road. and a lot of restrictions by the lebanese of course because they have a quarter of the population there are now syrians. they just allowed 48 hours. she went to the embassy. she had all the papers. i sent her all the supporting documents. they told her no. we are you are -- wean you are not going to go back. we can't give you a visa. when am i going to be able to see my family? in heaven maybe? it is so difficult for me. this is my third year. city of to go to my
aleppo and i am hopeless to be able to see my mom. it is so, it is breaking my eart deeply. >> should i answer? >> sure. >> try and take responsibility. it's cruel and really hard and i feel for you. i can't imagine what it would be like for me in the same position. family and it strikes me how different it was for my folks because of their ability to go back and see their relatives and communicate and know their relatives are safe. it is so dramatically different. all i can say in your specific question, it's not a great nswer, but i got to be honest, that the way the law is written is it requires people to prove that they will return home. so it's obscene, really, making people who are in a war zone apply to this because how are hey going to prove they go
home? i don't see any change in that unless there is a change in the law. what we are doing in another area realizing what a horrible thing this is, there are a lot of people who have immigrant visa. not visitor visa but immigrant visa petitions. like many syrians. and, yeah. they're unable to -- there is a waiting list. you have to wait so many years to get there. we're allowing anyone that has an immigrant visa petition waiting to join relatives in the states to apply now as a refugee. we're just starting up that program. so that population will be able -- we'll be able to address but we won't be able to address others without a legal change. >> okay. >> you know, you brought the journalist here. the thing is after five years it seems that our leaders from
all parts, they screwed things up. they missed it. what i want to say is instead of, you know, saying like the thing is maybe after the election we'll have different administration and they will address that differently but i want to focus on one thing. instead of being afraid from inging syrians here to stay, why don't we bring people in the middle and try to raise them on democracy and great principles? those will be the new leaders that can end this conflict. otherwise we'll be trapped and we'll be kept under those looking o instead of for the syrian benefits and interests they are taking care of themselves. why is the u.s. government always skeptical about syrians being here and not wanting to go back? we had a great country and we want -- we learned many things from the american values, the
democracy, the tolerance, everything. why shouldn't we increase this and have more syrians here and give them the opportunity to be the future leaders so they can go back and help in leading the community? the regime.hate they need a new voice. why the u.s. does not work on helping those who are voiceless and bring them here to study learn new things? then those people will become our voices and i think millions of syrians would join them. why do they not think that? >> you're asking the wrong person. i am a humanitarian. i work on the refugee issue. you really need to ask political leaders why that is. i can tell you from my point of view that from a refugee point of view there's been nothing crueler than sort of the
focusing of legitimate fear on terrorism but the focusing on the refugee population is just horrific. people who are fleeing from terrorists are being branded by some as a threat and it's just ridiculous. but your larger question on why we don't have programs outside of the refugee world to bring in other people, i don't have an answer for you. >> just want to ask you briefly about that --. >> i think what you say makes sense. i would say i am witness to the effort p.r.n. has done on the hill to try to deepen this association between refugees and terrorism and there has been a tremendous advocate in that fight -- i hope we will move where you want to be but an election year is not the right time to push this issue of course.
we'll see and perhaps next year will be a little bit easier to push some of these issues. but very interesting, in the previous panel at georgetown, a group of students came to see you and say we want to try to build a movement that will pressure universities, private universities in the u.s. to offer grants. so this is just a temporary stay. it would achieve part of what you are saying, which is train people who can be a future to their own country. there is a movement among students which i think is extremely reassuring on some of the values that predominate in this country. i hope this will eventually see fruition. george? >> well, my question is a bit lighter, easier question to answer. but, so those things -- >> your question would be for -- >> it's for you, actually. o i do want to say there are
challenges implied by the question by mariela but my, because there are a lot of factors the u.s. government cannot control in those cases and there are laws that have been there for decades and it's not magic to change them. but my question is, why the asylum seekers who -- there are 5,000 asylum seekers in the united states who are, until now, some people, three years, three and a half years did not get an interview. so here, my question is, isn't it something that could easily or at least should easily from a theoretical standpoint be addressed in a faster way? those people who are already here, who have been cleared, who got the visas, it's only about this two-hour interview and making a decision. why are we keeping those people anging not knowing anything?
i ask this question because i believe this is something the u.s. government can easily control. >> i don't really know. i don't work with the asylum --. >> yes, yes. >> i think the answer is the department of homeland security has so many officers that can do the interviews and they're using them to interview refugees overseas, asylum cases here, and then cases that are coming across the southwest border with increased numbers. and i just don't think there are enough people to process the number that are coming in. now, there's a logical question after that, you know, why don't they get more people? >> i'm sorry. we're addressing you as the u.s. government. [laughter] >> so i apologize. >> you can tell him on the lunch break, you know. >> this is an opportunity for
us --. nothing personal. you are the only person we know here. >> you were saying that we failed and that we're trying to be positive and optimistic and look forward but that there has been a failure. it's needed to be said. the number of deaths, the prolonged conflict, and not just in syria. around syria, in iraq, 3 million displaced persons, and now europe and the challenges to and the risks international law and european law and what that means for asylums and the polarization of public opinion in europe in the united states. i guess it's good because for every critical zdeno phobe there is somebody who has been positively engaged but still
the public opinion has become very challenging and then it becomes personal. the first refugees resettled to kansas city. you know it was almost when that happened and there was a family that was supposed to go to texas and they had to stop in new york and they weren't sure. are we going to be safe going to texas? that kind of situation was unheard of. i mean, we never had to deal with that. so, yes. there's been a failure. there's also been a failure in south sudan and all over. partly that's funding. an inability to realize the plans that we've got for individual support, for community support, for sustained engagement at the humanitarian level. so, yeah. more could have been done. it all crystalized recently i'm afraid. and i guess positively to the
extent that there is now as simon mentioned a real focus on education. the flow of so many poor refugees to europe struck a erve that still hurts. but one of the motivations as i mentioned besides despair and the cut off of food aid one of the positive push factors was we want to educate our kids because so many of them are being left behind in asylum. so now there is that positive spin. we can only hope resources will go in. we know the host countries are prepared to support it. as far as secondary and tertiary education and scholarship opportunities and the like that, from the days that u.n.h.c.r. was helping south african refugee students in the 1960's and 1970's that's
always been a very high per capita investment. it makes a lot of sense. , re are organizations states, like the germans and the daffy scholarship program hat really are working now and getting better endowed. we can only hope subject of course to visas that we'll have more students coming to the united states. e know that universities and the students behind these associations are really willing. i know there's john hopkins prepared to take a student, so the one student will hopefully become 10 will become 20 and 30 and 50. the problem is that in the meantime people are dying. the war is continuing. and the international community has failed. >> thanks. i certainly agree with the focus on education. we were recently in southern
turky and asking people why do you move to europe? you know, i thought i knew but we talked to lots of people and i thought the main reason would be tension in the local communities, no ability to return, and no jobs. the answer we got most often, education for the children, was the main reason for the families who could still afford to move. i repeat that. those who move have the means to move. many don't have that. one positive thing turkey is now considering work permits for a percentage of the refugees. it is a very nice initiative at a time when there are lots of problems in turkey. i am glad they're trying to push that and i hope it will give some results. thank you very much for this discussion. i think now we'll open the debate to questions from the audience here. i have lights in the eyes so if you raise your arm just wave it so i see you. yes.
>> hi. i was recently in europe a few months ago and turkey as well for that matter. and i was speaking to a swedish woman who was around my age so she was young. the way she was talking about refugees was so kind of disgusting. and i felt like i couldn't really say anything because, you know, she is from a country where they took in lots of refugees and i'm an american and, you know, we have so much trouble just taking 10,000. what really shocked me was that this is a very educated woman and even earlier she was talking about, i mean, all kinds of animal rights. it was just a cognitive dissonance when it came to these particular group of people as opposed to all of the other issues, you know. she feels very strongly about. i know it is just very alarming being in europe at that time and seeing the way, these
fringe movements. it was a very kind of large segment of the population had very kind of racist ideas of the migrants who were coming in. so i just wanted to ask, how are these migrants adjusting in countries like sweden and germany now? has it gotten better? has it gotten worse? >> okay. >> the short answer to your question is i'm not the expert on the reception and integration process. i would since we're in georgetown refer everybody to the migration policy institute. there is one source of very, very reliable and good, comparative information about the resettlement and integration to use that term. not perfect. experiences of refugees in the united states as well as in
europe. so i don't want to presume that i know how there was this whole expectation that refugees would bring a boom to the german economy. that seems not to be immediately the case. from what i've read. on the other hand this is not something that happens overnight. there are challenges in terms of getting employment. there are challenges in terms ceptance societal ac and the like. but as far as that woman's attitude is concerned i'm afraid that one of the things where there has been failure that i should have mentioned is in political leadership. and where angela merkel and to a solid extent president obama as well have stood out and of course prime minister in canada and several others is that they've -- they didn't -- they tried to lead public opinion. in some of the other european countries i'm afraid they either led them in a negative
way, and i won't name the countries, but they've got barbed wire around them now -- or they've instilled in the population sufficient doubt and, you know, that such opinions flourished. and that's not good for us, for syrians, i dare say for muslim refugees in general, and then if it's not good for syrians or muslim refugees then it's not good for any refugees. >> if i could add, one of the reasons that our program is so successful despite the recent attacks, we've never had attacks like this before, is because our emphasis on integration, we resettled refugees at 300 sites around the country and used a public/private partnership so used n.g.o.'s working with local community charities and n.g.o.'s, integrating them into society, getting them to meet people, finding jobs, and getting their kids in school. one of the great things about the u.s. is any child gets to go to school.
there is never a question of what is your status or anything like that. they get to go to school. so it's worked really well for us. one thing we find is that anybody that's met a refugee in the states is positive toward the refugee experience. we don't meet many people. i can't think of a single example like the swedish person you met. the people who don't like refugees in the states haven't met them yet. and so --. >> i want to follow up to that comment. i used to work for p.r.n. but now live in the middle of the country in colorado. and watching this discussion here with the political climate we have it occurs to me perhaps there's been a failure of i don't know, u.n.h.c.r. or someone to somehow educate
the u.s. and elsewhere about who is a refugee and who is a migrant. many people in the mid feel the country think they're all the same. mexicans crossing the border and syrian refugees they see as kind of all the same. and i think if people had a better understanding of what a refugee is, who they are, what they've gone through, perhaps the political dialogue would be more reasonable. i don't know who would be responsible for that. but i think it's a serious problem. >> if i may, very quickly, couldn't agree with you more. after they washed up on the shore of turkey there was an outpouring of sympathy and empathy and generosity that we were looking for for a long ime around the syria crisis.
very shortly thereafter of course there was the paris bombing and the famous passport that threw the whole refugee narrative topsy-turvy coupled then with san bernadino. that brought it home to the united states. it was impossible for us to counter, to clarify, to educate, if you will. partly because everybody was watching, i won't name the news networks, that were showing migrants coming, you know, in streams and masses through muddy fields. however sad those stories they were still -- they still represented a massive threat. and that was popularized in the media and in the electoral season and it was conflated to a certain extent with what's happening south of the united states border and the language there of illegal, irregular,
and all of that made things and still do make things very difficult in terms of clarifying that these are refugees. not with standing u.s. history. i mean, we know as americans who refugees are. and we know about the immigration story of the united states. we know that there is a certain mixing there from the days of the pilgrims. but, nevertheless, it got manipulated this year. there was a very bad year to have a refugee crisis in the united states. >> i'd like to ask one thing. what happens in europe and what happens in the u.s. the resettlement is a problem where you select who comes. there is a vetting process. it is extremely organized and takes a lot of time. what happened in europe is of course ve arrived uninvited if you want which is what the people opposed -- the people who oppose the movement claim very strongly. so they come here it is because they want the migration outcome and they want to decide where
they go. they don't want to be told where they can be protected. a year ago, the european union made a proposal to its member states which was not perfect but i think had the right elements. you know, keep them in greece. process them. those who are refugees, let's relocate them by having a sharing agreement between the 28 members and those who don't qualify as refugees because it was not only syrians coming, lots of other groups, some refugees perhaps and some perhaps less so. they were not able to get their member states to agree, so the situation deteriorated and deteriorated. more people come to the point of the recent agreement which is basically an agreement not wanting anyone. and not offering legal pathways. that's why i tend to be a little more pessimistic right now. i think we are not showing the syrians any hope in the coming couple of years. you know, i think that's stressful. a for your message on
large scale presentation of what are the differences to public opinion, these are very expensive programs. right now you know i'm witness how the u.n. is struggling to deliver the very basic budgets that are never fully funded and less funded year after year. they don't have the band width to start such a larger public education program. >> sir? hello? >> i am from syria. i am a newcomer here in america. two weeks ago. i am married before, seven years, okay, from america. okay? after six years i have a visa. okay. get $2,000 about this visa and i am a refugee before three years. okay. , with ith n.g.o.'s
i.r.c., and others, and my wife from america from chicago. hat future for n.g.o.'s -- i am sorry -- my english is not good, okay, but not bad. [laughter] >> i hope you all understand me. okay? before that situation i am a teacher. okay. 150 from students, america. kay? but i want to ask, what is the future for the refugee in america, not important. now i am here. okay. my goal? i come to america. okay. but after in america, i don't have any opinion about life here. okay? -- what i eks, i
want in america. okay? i don't understand how you think here. okay? the syrian refugee comes in. okay. this is what is a problem for the syrians. syrian refugee not search about immigration or money or anything. just want peace. before the situation in syria all the syrians are happy. never i see syrians sleep in the street. never i see syrians want to eat. everything. e have just i want to understand what he future is for the refugees. thank you. >> well, refugees will settle in the u.s. i know the first years are difficult. many have to do two jobs. you know, they have to learn how to access schools for their
children, health care, etcetera. it's complicated. but in general, refugees who ettle here do very well. because they have the will to recover the time they lost during the conflict. so i would not despair. after many years, some refugees decide to go back to their home if the conditions back home allow that. i i don't think you have to see coming here as necessarily permanent but i am positive about the way this country allows resettled refugees to start a new life. you know, with hard work, no doubt about it. but it works. and i've seen refugees from somalia, from the congo, from nepal, from burma, from many different countries really making their way here, refugees from iraq a few years ago who came after the iraq invasion. so i would have some hope. but maybe --. >> well, i agree with you. i think that america as a
country, the culture, in america, is very helpful for newcomers to integrate. so i personally never had a problem in integrating and meeting new people and talking to americans or anything like that. so i don't know if i understood your question. f i did, then i think that the u.s. as a culture would be very helpful for you to integrate. but then if your question is, what would happen next? what would happen when peace -- when the war ends? i believe that there is no -- like you can leave whenever you want. make t think anyone would you stay where you don't want to. >> one of the things that i've noticed that is much more engagement by the syrian american community in a broadly defined syrian community since
many syrians, so many lebanesers have syrian descent and so the oish american community and arab american institute, the syrian american medical association, a number of organizations are engaged not just in providing money but they're becoming more, you know, engaged with nongovernmental organizations to help syrians coming. they're advocating but also doing. and i think that is a very positive reflection of the support of new arivals. one reason we have the public/private partnership is most refugees are assigned an organization which helps them get settled and sort of watches over them while they're first there and then connects them with other people from there,
from the refugee community. so we often see groups of refugees working in the same place. and when a new refugee comes they'll bring that refugee along for a job interview. and the same with the schools. the local n.g.o.'s we work with will bring the children in schools and set things up. we don't just drop a family off. i'm not saying it's not hard. it's really hard. you know, a new country. you often have to take a job below the skill level of what you could do in your own language. but we also just don't drop refugees off by themselves and tell them to make do. >> i think there is an organization in chicago called . rian community network they support a lot of syrian refugees and they help a lot of families who came as refugees from syria. i think it's going to be great if you would like to be in
touch with them. they are really helpful. >> good afternoon. so i have a couple questions. the first one is kind of short. i'm curious about where in syria most of the refugees are coming from. i hear a lot about the olitical divisions in syria, christians, muslims, others. are most of the refugees from one ethnic group or the other, or is it a wide, diverse array of people who are coming from there? and then the second question, which is more challenging i think is do you think it's easier to get a political olution to solve the refugee crisis or to solve the actual
syrian conflict? do you think it would be easier to get the eu, russia, the u.s. to agree to a solution that would help quell the conflict in syria or that would make it easier for us to bring our refugees here? >> can i? >> yes. >> i would like to take the second one. [laughter] >> since i'm reading --. in short, in syria everybody is convinced they're winning so in negotiations they don't tend to offer any compensation or compromising anything. and any conference, like just the last one, geneva 65. i don't know what the number is. they met. they agreed on nothing. because everybody comes with very, you know, asking for the impossible from the other part. the thing is, and i have to admit that as syrians because we were under one regime and
under one party we don't know how to negotiate. we usually come with big heads asking for the impossible. so people after a couple of years, like what he said, in 2013 people start losing hope. because after one conference after another they found nothing. forcing the others, like my family is still there. so they are, you know, hearing the propaganda and all of the media from all parts. the thing is as long as those leaders remain in their seats convinced they are winning they will not give anything in return. so we have only two solutions. one, end them all and bring new ones which is currently impossible. the other thing, try to empower those who have different voices and opinions. like they call it the silent majority. the people who want new leaders but they don't have the ability to do this. so now trying to focus -- this
kind of change will take a while since after this geneva, like the last one, they actually finished nothing. if you see the news it will be the same geneva conference that happened two or three years ago, the same statement, the same request, everything. >> and answering your first question, i believe the answer would be sunni muslims. it is very unfortunate but it's, i believe, a fact that the neighborhoods that are occupied by sunni muslims are targeted the most. it's a -- also the sunni muslims are the majority but at the same time as a fact i believe that they --. >> i would love to add that the syrians, the christians are just 5%, so, i mean, if we see
the majority are muslims, so it is not like something, oh, wow. t as i said, we used to live together as one. we used to share christmas, ramadan. now we even share water and food. my mom tells me always that in my building we have muslim neighbors. they share food like brothers, like sisters. we have no differences. and i hope we will always advocate for this. [inaudible question] >> yes? >> so practically everyone on the panel mentioned budget constraints. students don't have enough money to attend universities. not enough money for public
education programs. schools are expensive. the united states in 2014 gave $5.9 billion to humanitarian assistance. but $619 for military spending. drones alone are allocated $4.9 billion. now, isn't there somewhat of a discrepancy, at least new merkley between the priorities that are -- numerically between the priorities that are openly set and i know it is politically difficult to just reroute money like that but i think that extreme percentage difference is kind of unacceptable. [applause] >> that was a comment. >> i think we'll take this as a statement. [laughter] yes? >> thank you. i'm asking this question mainly to the syrians on the panel and without getting too
hypothetical but just to frame for context i'm reading an academic paper currently. the idea behind my question. i definitely agree with some of the questions and comments about most of americans in particular really not understanding who syrian refugees -- who a syrian refugee is. so i've been trying to kind of consider how do we actually change that at large? you know, one-on-one it's not going to happen fast enough and it's not going to be prevalent enough. one of the things that i get push back k from, from american counterparts, is don't you think it's invasive to say to syrian refugees, well tell us your story and let us publicize it? you know, let us tell the world more about you? so my question is, having this opportunity, do you feel that it would be invasive not just for you but if more people, more syrian refugees were asked, if more real, personal narratives were published,
would you feel that that's invasive? would you feel that that's infringing on your privacy? >> well, in terms of what we can do, there are many things we can do. like, of course, the media is one thing. what we are doing right now is one thing. there are very powerful tools in terms of raising awareness but answering your question, i think not at all. as i mentioned at the beginning, i feel that i have responsibility to share, although i count myself as one of the luckiest, to share what is happening in my country to let people know the pain that my people are having on a daily basis. so i -- and the one other factor that plays in this is that we as syrians do not usually get to give our opinion or to speak. we're just not used to it. so when we're asked, i believe that most of the refugees,
egardless of how painful their journeys were, they are -- they would love to share it and they will not feel offended or anything by sharing what happened with them, because they want the people to know what their people are facing. still facing on a daily basis. this is very subjective. like every person might have a different opinion. but from my work with refugees and from my work with many other syrians, this would be my answer. >> may i add something. as i said in the beginning, technically i'm not a refugee because i came in a different process and different system. but i'm trying to use my ability to convey my idea through my journalistic background and position as an interpreter. i have a good command of english. to try to speak on behalf of those who have the same story but they are not able to deliver that. i think when they offered me -- when they e-mailed me asking me to be here and i think the,
mariela and george have the same opinion, we accepted immediately. it is not intrusive when somebody asks you to step ahead and tell your story. it would be intrusive if they do that without your permission. so i think it will not be intrusive. you can ask people and if they say that it is not -- if they feel it is not okay, they will tell you. but i think we are here. the refugees are here. but they have families, friends, relatives. so they will speak on their behalf. we have our story. they have their stories. you will hear 100,000 different stories because every one of us is -- has his own story. i don't think it would be intrusive. >> and just a quicky, world refugee day is june 20. the theme for that, because of the -- that's what i was looking on my phone for -- is # with refugees and it is precisely the telling of the
refugee's story. there is nothing like meeting, being with a refugee as opposed to watching the video or reading the story. but, nevertheless, it's the personalizheing, t 60 million and all of these numbers that are relevant and shocking and of themselves don't yet bring home the personal stories and tragedies of the refugee story. >> the it was said a long time ago 10,000 deaths was a statistic and one death was a tragedy. we are still there. you have to show the numbers we manage for policy purpose are not convincing anyone. they are terrifying people. the moment you bring personal history, personal lives, i had a very difficult argument with someone on the hill who was completely against resettlement, etcetera, and he had muslim assistance and he said no i don't want arabs but muhammad is okay. he knew muhammad. so in a way you demystify the thing by knowing exactly what is happening. i think we have to stop there
and i really want to thank our panelists for this very, very firm discussion and for sharing stories that are difficult to share. i really appreciate you coming under the lights to do that with us tonight. [applause] and the last word is to ahmad. >> okay. i want to add just one last thing. we came from a country where our government and leaders tell us what to do. and all we have to do as people is to listen. i learned that the voices of people are heard here. i don't know what channels because i am still new here, but you can do that. you can vouch for us. you can say our stories. you can say your impression about the syrian refugees. we are not angels. we are like 24 million syrians but at least we gave you some
example about what syrians might be. you can call your political channels to present to their friends. i don't know what would be the process but you can help us. you can help the syrians who are trapped there. they are hoping to have a better future away from violence. [applause] >> this weekend the c-span cities tour posted by our charter and time warner cable partners takes you to san bernadino, california to explore the history and literary culture of this city located east of los angeles. on december 2 of 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 seriously injured in a terrorist attack at the inland regional center in san bernadino. we'll talk with congressman ete angular about the recovery and the attack. >> when we talk about terrorism and the fight against terror it isn't something that is in the abstract anymore.
it's something that across this country, you know, means something. because this isn't a big city here in san bernadino that was attacked. this is, this could happen anywhere. >> we'll also speak with san bernadino city councilman with the establishing a permanent memorial to the victims of the attack. >> well, it provides a sense of remembrance. it highlights their lives and what they've contributed to our local community and certainly it always will be a near and dear place for us to provide a place of consolation, serenity. we're thinking a serenity garden, a prayer chapel of some sort in and around this area. >> on book tv we'll learn about the family of wyatt aeropostale from the book "the aeropostale clan" talking about the -- the erp's connection to san bernadino. >> the connection the earps have to san bernadino county dates back to about 1852 when
the father of wyatt earp who is the most well known, named nicholas earp, he was, basically left his family temporarily. they were living in monmouth, illinois. he heard about the gold rush up in northern california. before he went back to the midwest, he ventured down to southern california. and he passed through the san bernadino valley. he vowed that one day he would come back to san bernadino. >> that's on american history tv. we'll visit the san bernadino history and railroad museum and talk about the importance of the railroad to san bernadino with ailt the san bernadino historical society vice president. located in the 1918 san bernadino depot the museum contains many objects related to the city's railroad history. >> construction was completed in 1918. it replace ad wooden structure that was approximately 100 yards east of here that burnt in 1960. why the depot was built a lot
larger than needed is because they decided to house the division headquarters at this location at that time. >> watch the c-span cities tour saturday at noon eastern on c-span2's book tv and sunday afternoon at 2:00 on american history tv on c-span3. the c-span cities tour, working with our cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. "usa today" writes that reince priebus is giving donald trump a t for trying. the chair of the republican national convention -- republican national committee was asked about this tweet that gop presidential candidate donald trump sent out yesterday. it says happy sifpblgo demayo. the best taco bowls are made in trump tower grill. love hispanics. you saw yesterday that donald trump tweeted a picture of himself digging into a tortilla bowl, big bit of sour cream in
it. >> i didn't see it. i heard about it. you can imagine i had other things to deal with yesterday afternoon. >> the tweet says, happy cinco de mayo, the best taco bowls are made in trump tower grill. i love hispanics. [laughter] >> he was trying. and, honestly. he's trying. and i'll tell you what. honestly think he understands that building and unifying and growing the party is the only way we're going to win. i think he gets that. >> what did you think when they told you about the tweet? >> i honestly had other pressing matters that i was dealing with that were far more important than that tweet. >> what are your plans for the convention? >> well, i mean, it makes things a little bit simpler. we don't have to worry about three separate headquarters,
hotels, and, you know, programming is going to be something we'll be working through. there's a lot of things that are already done. the stage is done. there are things that just have to happen. we've moved the convention up seven weeks to july. >> certainly when we were talking about an open convention it seemed like i was a genius for doing that. but now we just have to get cruising and get going. >> all of rnc chair reince priebus's remarks air tonight at 8:00 eastern here on c-span. the labor department reports that 160,000 jobs were added to the economy last month with the unemployment rate holding steady at 5%. president obama marked 74 straight months of job creation at the white house briefing today. he also called on congress to pass legislation to combat money laundering and tax evasion. his is 25 minutes.
>> all right. good afternoon, everybody. seven years ago in april of 2009 our economy lost nearly 700,000 jobs and the unemployment rate hit 9% on its way to 10%. seven years later in april, 2016, our economy added 160,000 new jobs. that makes april the 74th consecutive month of private sector job growth in america. over that record streak of job growth, our businesses have created 14.6 million new jobs in all. wages have been rising at an annual rate of more than 3% this year. so the unemployment rate has been growing. unemployment has been falling.
and wages have been rising. but the global economy as many people here are aware is not growing as fast as it should be. you're still seeing lagging growth in places like europe, japan, and now china. here in the united states there are folks out there still hurting. and so we've got to do everything we can to strengthen the good trends and to guard against some dangerous trends in the global economy. and if the republican congress joined us to take some steps that are pretty common sense, then we could put some additional wind at the backs of working americans. to create new jobs they should invest in our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our schools. our water mains. some of you joined me when i went to flint this week. it was a great example of the kind of work that is out there to be done. and we could be putting people
all across this country back to work with huge mullet plier effects across the -- multiplier effects across the economy if we started investing in the infrastructure that will make us more productive. to reward some of the hardest working people in america. congress should raise the minimum wage. this is something that would not only help those individuals who are getting a bigger paycheck but it also means they're spending more and that would be a boost to business. to level the playing field for american workers and crack down on unfair foreign competition, they should pass smart new trade agreements. and congress should reform our tax code to promote growth and job creation, which includes closing wasteful loopholes and i have been talking about this for a while. only congress can fully close the loophole that wealthy individuals and how corporations all too often take advantage of often at the expense of middle-class families.
if they are getting out of paying their fair share of taxes, that means the rest of us have to shoulder the burden. i have put forward plans repeatedly to do exactly that. close loopholes, make sure everybody is paying their fair share, which would not only give people greater confidence in the system but would be good for our economy. it would make sure that families and small businesses who don't have fancy lawyers and accountants are being treated the same as big corporations who do. i think it's fair to say congress will not act on a big tax reform plan before the election. that would shut down some of these loopholes. what my administration has been doing is to look for steps that we can take on our own to make the tax system care. -- fairer. in recent months, we have seen just how big a problem corruption and tax evasion can become around the globe.
we saw what happened with the release of the panama papers, the degree to which both legal practices of tax avoidance that are still unfair and bad for the economy, as well as the legal practices -- illegal practices that in some cases involve nefarious activities, continue to exist and pread. combating this kind of tax evasion and strengthening the global financial system has been priorities of mine since i took office and are part of our broader ongoing effort to make sure the rules are not rigged and the economy works for everybody. let me give you an example. here at home, we have asked the wealthiest americans to start paying their fair share. last month, the treasury department took action to prevent more corporations from taking advantage of a tax loophole that let them shift their address abroad just to avoid paying taxes in america. taxes that they rightfully
owe. we have taken several steps to make sure our tax laws are enforced, including leading effort to crack down on offshore evasion. as a result, thousands of individuals have come forward to disclose offshore accounts and pay the taxes they owe along with interest and penalties. today, we are building on those efforts. i believe you have heard from treasury but i wanted to amplify what they told you in detail. number one, we are requiring banks and other financial institutions to know, verify, and report who the real people are behind shell corporations that set up accounts at those institutions. one of the main ways that companies avoid taxes, wealthy individuals avoid taxes, is by setting up a bunch of shell corporations and making it harder to trace where money is flowing and what taxes are owed. we are saying those financial institutions have to step up and get the money. -- get fa -- that information.
second,we are plugging a gap in our tax rules that foreigners can exploit to hide their assets to evade taxes. the treasury department and irs are issuing a proposed rule to make sure foreigners cannot hide behind anonymous shell companies formed inside the u.s. these actions are going to make a difference. they will allow us to continue to do a better job of tracking inancial flows and making sure that people are paying the taxes that they owe, rather than using shell corporations and offshore accounts to avoid doing the things that ordinary americans, hard-working americans are doing every day, and that is making sure they pay their fair share. having said that, we are not going to be able to complete this job unless congress acts as well. i'm calling on congress to pass new legislation that requires all companies formed inside the u.s. to report information about their real owners to the treasury department's financial
crimes enforcement network. that will help law enforcement better investigate and prevent inancial crimes. i'm calling on congress to provide the justice department with additional tools to investigate corruption and money launderers. i'm calling on the senate in particular, senator rand paul, who has been quirky on this issue, to stop blocking the implementation of tax treaties that have been tending or -- pending for years. years. these treaties actually improve law enforcement's ability to investigate and crackdown on offshore tax evasion. i'm assuming that is not something he's in favor of. so we will need to cooperate internationally because tax evasion, tax avoidance, money laundering, these things are all taking place in a global, financial system. if we cannot cooperate with other countries, it makes it harder for us to crackdown. if we can combine the actions
that we are taking administratively with the new tools i'm asking congress to provide to the justice department and treasury, these actions will prevent tax evasion, prevent money laundering, prevent terrorist financing, and they will, most importantly, of all the fundamental principle of our economy. in america, no matter how wealthy or powerful, you should play by the same rules as anyone else. i will take a couple of questions. since you are now the incoming president of the white house correspondents. >> what is your reaction to donald trump becoming the presumptive nominee of the republican party? given the delegate math, do you think it is time for bernie sanders to step aside on the democratic side? president obama: with respect to the republican process, mr. trump, there will be plenty of time to talk about his
positions on various ssues. e has a long record that needs o be examined, and i think it's important for us to take seriously the statements he has ade in the past. but most importantly, and i speak to you all of you in this room as reporters, as well as the american public, i just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. this is not entertainment. this is not a reality show. this is a contest for the presidency of the united tates. what that means is that every
candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine crutiny. it means that you have to make sure the budgets at up -- add up. if they say they have an answer to a problem, that it is actually plausible, and that they have details for how it ould work. and if it is completely implausible and would not work, that needs to be reported on. the american people need to know that. if they take a position on international issues that could threaten war, or has the potential of offending our -- potential of up-ending our critical relationships with other countries or would potentially break the financial system, that needs to be
reported on. the one thing that i will really be looking for over the next six months is that the american people are effectively informed about where candidates stand on the issues, what they believe, making sure that their numbers add up, making sure their policies have been etted, and that candidates are held to what they have said in he past. if that happens, i'm confident our democracy will work. that is true whether we are talking about mr. trump or ms. clinton, bernie sanders, or nybody else. but what i'm concerned about is he degree to which reporting and information starts emphasizing the spectacle and the circus.
because that is not something we can afford. the american people, they have good judgment, good instincts, as long as they get good information. all right? president obama: on the democratic side, let's let the process play itself out. you mentioned the delegate math. i think everyone knows what that is. senator sanders has done and extorted very job raising a -- done an extraordinary job raising a whole range of issues that are important to democratic voters as well as the american people generally. i know that, at some point, there is going to be a conversation between secretary clinton and bernie sanders about how we move toward the convention. he good news is, despite the
fact that during the course of primaries, everyone starts gettling a little chippy -- i have been through this, it's natural -- sometimes even more with the stats and supporters and candidates themselves. the good news is, there is a pretty strong consensus in the democratic party on a vast majority of issues. some disagreements about tactics, political strategy, or policy nuance, but both secretary clinton and bernie sanders believes every american should have health care. so do i. both candidates believe that we should be raising the minimum wage. both candidates believe we should invest in our infrastructure and put more people back to work. both candidates believe we should pass a comprehensive immigration reform policy that makes sure we are in forcing -- enforcing the laws and improving our legal
immigration system and make sure our borders are secure, but also that we continue to enjoy the incredible boost that you get from attracting talent from all over the world. both candidates agree we should be prudent in terms of how we use our military and we should care for our veterans when they come home. so, if you look at 95% of the issues, there is strong agreement there. you don't see the same kinds of divisions between the two democratic candidate to remain that you have been seeing in some of the republican debates. yeah? >> mr. president, what the speaker ryan's comments say about the state of the republican party? how would you advise your ellow democrats, as to how -- who appear to have to now run against drunks as to how they can win in november?
president obama: well, i think you have to ask speaker ryan what the implications of his comments are. there is no doubt that there is a debate taking place inside the republican party about who they are and what they represent. their standardbearer at the oment is donald trump. and i think -- not just republican officials, but more importantly republican voters are going to have to make a decision whether this is the guy who speaks for them and represents their values. republican women voters are going to have to decide, is that the guy i feel comfortable with representing me and what i are about? i think folks who historically ave been concerned about
making sure that budgets add up and that we are responsible stewards of government finance have to ask, does mr. trump's budgets work? those will be questions republican voters, more than republican officials, have to nswer. as part of the democrats, i think we have run on what we are for, not just on what we are against. for the last seven and a half years, we have been pretty clear about what we believe will help working families who re struggling out there. and although it has been difficult to get through republican congresses to get those things done, the truth is that they continue to be
prescriptions that would really help people. you know? making sure that families get paid sick leave and family leave and early childhood education. that would help families. raising the minimum wage would help a lot of people. rebuilding infrastructure would put back work a whole bunch of s guys in hardhats and gals in hard-hats that need to work. those are good jobs that cannot be exported. now is the time to do it. so, i want democrats to feel confident about the policy prescriptions we are putting forward and the contrast, i think, will be pretty clear. i will leave it up to the republicans to figure out how they square their circle. all right, i'm going to take two more questions. >> mr. president, what is your
message to democratic voters who may be hesitant to vote for the democratic front runner because of the ongoing e-mail scandal, and did you see on the trump's taco bowl tweet and what is your thought? president obama: i have no thoughts on mr. trump's tweets. as a general rule, i have no -- i don't pay attention to mr. trump's tweets. i think that will be true for the next six months. ou can just file that one. in terms of the democratic votes coming up, i'm going to let the voters cast their ballots and not try to meddle in the few primaries that emain.
let the process play itself out. we will know soon enough. it will not be too much longer. >> not long before your nuclear world summit when you had world leaders here the d.c. met r was closed for 24 hours. you may note that you would be more of an ordinary district. i'm wondering what that says about the nation's capitol, having the transit system closed for 24 hours and having a number of safety related problems. and what can your administration do if republicans are standing in the way of an infrastructure bill, specifically for the d.c. metro? what can you -- your administration do if republicans are standing in the way of a bill? president obama: this is a somewhat self-interested question, i assume, because a bunch of folks here take the metro. but it's just one more example of the underinvestments that have been made. look, the d.c. metro historically has been a great strength of this region.
but over time, we under invested in maintenance and repair, and the steps to being taken now -- i will refer to the department of transportation, but i can say obviously safety comes first, and we want to make sure safety concerns are addressed. the broader issue is we have bridges. we have roads. we have ports. we have airports. we have water mains and pipes, as we saw in flint, that suffer rom neglect. and in many parts of the country, we still rely on systems that were built 30, 50, in some cases 100 years ago. and the reason we have been
neglecting them is not we do not know how to fix them. it is not because people have not been aware of the need. we have known for years now that we are a trillion or $2 trillion short in necessary infrastructure repair. i talked about this when i came into office. and sought to do more in terms of investing in our nation's infrastructure. the problem we have is the republican congress has been resistant to really taking on this problem in a serious way, and the reason is because of an ideology that says government spending is necessarily bad. and i addressed this when i was in flint. that mindset, that ideology, has led to us not investing in those things we have to do together. you know? as you point out, this
metropolitan area in the nation's capitol is actually economically doing really well. but it doesn't matter how big your paycheck is if you have been make -- taking metro and it's suddenly shut down for a month and now you are stuck in traffic, trying to drive to work instead. you can't build your own metro system. you can't build your own highway. you can't build your own airport. and so we have a specific problem with under investing in infrastructure. now is the time, by the way for us to do so. interest rates are so low and there are so many construction workers and contractors underemployed at the moment that you can get jobs done on time, on schedule. it would give a boost into our
overall economy because we know when we spend the dollar on infrastructure, we actually get bigger bang for the buck. in terms of the economy overall. surrounding businesses, suppliers, food trucks, everybody is doing better. it gives a huge boost to the economy. it lasts for a long time. think about investments we made in things like the hoover dam and golden gate bridge or metro. it is a good thing to do and historically, it was not and should not be partisan. but if we have a mindset that says whatever government is doing must be bad, then these are going to be the results and is going to continue to get worse. it is already tough in poorer ommunities like flint.
but, you know, we are seeing these kinds of infrastructure problems spring up in communities all across the country, and it does not distinguish by race or by egion. everybody needs roads. everybody needs airports. hopefully, this will prompt a conversation. the last thing i am going to say about this. this is a good example of making sure the candidates are speaking to this issue. as you go into the presidential election. i put forward specific proposals for how i would pay for additional infrastructure investment. he numbers add up. and so, the question is -- how do the remaining candidates for the presidency intend to tackle this? how do members of congress intend to tackle this? what is the republican agenda for infrastructure? do they have one?
how do they pay for it? do they pay for it by cutting medicare or medicaid? if they do, that needs to be fleshed out and the consequences for working families needs to be explained. all right? hank you, everybody. >> next a look at what recent data show about the fiscal health of the middle class. from "washington journal" this is about 50 minutes. our convern america's middle class continues. we want to introduce you to jim tankersley with the "the washington post." with pew currier charitable trusts, the director
of financial security and mobility. we have been using the pew poll to define the middle class. how do you define it? guest: there is not a universally accepted definition of the middle class. with our research, we tend to look at the whole income distribution and take the middle income section, potentially the 40th percentile, the 60th percentile, just that middle chunk. research defines and on how people self defined. most americans believe they are middle-class. host: do you consider yourself to be middle class? guest: i do. what is the range we are talking about? $50,000.st north of
lasts been the same the couple of years, though i expect based on some nongovernment statistics that we have seen that it is going to go up. in the last are we looked at, not by a time, that we are starting to see it go up. the band we're talking about is estimating. the band around the median income includes a smaller amount of income than most politicians talk about for the middle class. president about obama, keeping the bush tax cuts for the middle class, that was up to $250,000 a year by obama's own definition. it ended up more than $400,000. that is upper 20%, upper 10%. when we define these income bands, we are looking at a much smaller group of americans then the politicians are thinking of. pew research center
-- ahundred and 44,000 $144,000 band. in washington dc, would you consider $50,000 in a family of four middle income? guest: no. host: what about in alabama? guest: yeah. that is the difference. the median income in alabama is lower than the middle income in the united states. cost of living is a big part of what we think of as middle class. come andn and counties around washington dc are some of the highest in the country. income in several counties in alabama is to be poor. some of that is mitigated by the
cost of where you live. it is more expensive to have housing and other amenities in d.c. then alabama. are not.ts of it that is where we start to see the disparities borne out in how election about wher people who consider themselves middle class perceive the economy. guest: in many ways, it is like a perfect storm if you think about family financial security. we have been talking a lot about income an. but if you think about a family's balance sheet more holistically, we also want to look at is if their income is sufficient to cover their expenses? will kind of savings do they have? what does their debt look like? when he think that comprehensive you, you see a lot of families are really walking a financial tightrope. they have not experienced significant learning gains in
the last decade, expenditures ise, familiesd to r don't have any cushing of savings -- cushioning of savings. stretchs pr etty high. it is much more universal, much more of a kitchen table issue. host: how big is the middle class? how many millions? if the population of the united states is 320 million, this middle band, this middle income ?lass any guesstimates, guest: that is almost impossible to say. it depends on who you that it it comes to who -- down to how you define it.
if you look at the people who -- when you ask people what a middle-class income is and extrapolate out of that, you are looking at a lot more. on the other hand, if you're looking at one quintile of households, that is not nearly hundred million. million. host: has a gotten worse or better over the years? guest: we are interested in is the recession is a turning point. it really wasn't. that is not to say that the recession was not hugely impactful for a lot of people. for those who became unemployed and lost significant amounts of money, obviously the recession was a huge bump in the road. when you look longitudinally, expenditure trends, savings
recessione was not the thing that caused financial precariousness. families have been struggling financially for a long time. host: this is one of the charts from the pew research center. 61% of american households were in the middle class, that is down to 50% today. is theou see the growth highest incomes, it has gone to to 9%.% guest: we have seen a widening out of wealth distribution over time. similar research we have conducted looked at economic mobility, how people changed their position on the income distribution. those raised in the middle fifth are equally likely to rise up or to fall down or stay in the
middle. to go back to the question of the recession for a second, it is important to think about the story the middle class has gone through in the last 15 years. at the end of the bubble, the stock bubble in the late 1990's, the last sustained growth in median income we have seen in america for quite some time, at the end of that, you had incomes not rising for most americans the way they had been experiencing. they borrowed more money to keep up their consumption patterns. they were helped of it by a housing bubble. when that first, the recession was the stopping of the music. they could not borrow as much, their incomes started going down instead of just stagnating. what we have emerged from the recession is a middle-clas