Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

On World Refugee Day, Rep. Huffman Introduces TORCH Act to Open Educational Opportunities for Refugees

Jun 20, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C.- In recognition of World Refugee Day, Rep. Huffman (D-San Rafael) and 47 other Members of Congress, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and Rep. Susan Davis, Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Development, took action today to unlock higher education opportunities for refugees who have legally immigrated to the United States, fleeing war and persecution in their home countries. The To Offer Refugees College Help (TORCH) Act would expand affordable access to a college education for refugees, people who have been granted political asylum, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders who assisted U.S. armed forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“Even in this difficult year, America is a welcoming nation, and we have an obligation to support those who have escaped violence to build a better life here for themselves and their families,” said Rep. Huffman. “On World Refugee Day, and every day, we should support those who flee to our nation and whose hard work sustains and refreshes the American Dream. The TORCH Act will improve refugees’ access to higher education as they make a new life in the United States, allowing these individuals to better integrate into the American fabric of life and contribute back to the country who welcomed them and offered them shelter.”

“UC is committed to welcoming the best students, scholars, scientists and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities,” said University of California President, Janet Napolitano. “This includes ensuring that students who come to the United States as refugees are given every opportunity to access and succeed at the University of California. UC supports the TORCH Act as it is consistent with our longstanding commitment to ensure all qualified students are given the opportunity to succeed at UC.”

“No one should be discriminated against just because of the country that they come from, and especially if they are fleeing extreme violence or war,” said Joanne Lin, senior managing director for advocacy and government relations at Amnesty International USA. “Having already been admitted to the United States and become a member of the community, refugees, asylees, and Iraqis and Afghans who make their home in the U.S. should have the same acess to in-state tuition as any other resident.”

“As one of the country’s largest providers of pro bono legal assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, we know firsthand that vulnerable individuals fleeing violence and persecution have waited—often for years—to rebuild their lives in safety,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “The TORCH Act would provide asylees, refugees, and America’s wartime allies the opportunity to immediately pursue higher education as a first step towards recovering a sense of normalcy, integrating into new communities, and robustly contributing to the American economy.”

‘Many refugees have to start from scratch when they arrive to the U.S.," said Melanie Nezer, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, HIAS. "With the TORCH Act, Representative Huffman lowers a huge barrier to education by allowing refugees access to in-state tuition so they can get on the path to self-sufficiency as soon as they arrive in the U.S.’ 

“As people of faith, we have a moral and spiritual call to ensure all of our community members have access to education, which plays a critical role helping all people succeed – and this is no different for refugees arriving in the United States,” said CWS President and CEO Rev. John McCullough. “Church World Service strongly supports the TORCH Act in its mission to expand access to education for refugees, asylees, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders from Iraq and Afghanistan. By investing in our newest arrivals, we are not only investing in their future but the future of our country as well.”​

The TORCH Act would guarantee in-state tuition to refugees, asylees, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders from Iraq and Afghanistan- for whom education is a critical step towards economic self-sufficiency and self-determination- regardless of their state residency status. The legislation would only apply to the first state where the individual lives after being admitted to the U.S.

Frequently, it can take years for a refugee, asylee, or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holder from Iraq and Afghanistan to establish state residency. During this time, such individuals are ineligible for college in-state tuition rates.

Currently, the federal government provides federal student aid assistance for refugees and already requires in-state tuition for active duty service members and veterans.  

The TORCH Act is cosponsored by: Reps. Nannette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Robert A. Brady (D-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Judy Chu (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Susan A. Davis (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Al Green (D-TX), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Hakeem S. Jeffries (D-NY), Hank C. Johnson Jr. (D-GA), James R. Langevin (D-RI), John B. Larson (D-CT), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Doris O. Matsui (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA),Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Bill Pascrell Jr, (D-NJ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Norma Torres (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

The TORCH Act is supported by leading refugee and asylum-seeker resettlement and advocacy organizations, universities, students and others, including: Amnesty International USA, University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, University of California Student Association, HIAS, Human Rights First, Church World Service, International Refugee Assistance Project, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, International Rescue Committee, Ethiopian Community Development Council, and Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors.