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

June 20, 2019

Washington, D.C.- In recognition of World Refugee Day, Rep. Huffman (D-San Rafael) and 29 other members introduced legislation to support young 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, by providing for in-state tuition in the states they have made their homes.

“Despite President Trump’s relentless and heartless attacks, America is a welcoming nation to those who seek refuge, and we 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, let’s support those who flee to our nation and work hard to renew the American Dream. My TORCH Act will allow refugees to better integrate into the American fabric of life and give back to the country who welcomed them and offered them shelter.”

"Refugees, asylees, and SIV recipients are new Americans who want to give back to the country that took them in,” said Jennifer Quigley, Director of Refugee Advocacy, Human Rights First. “This legislation allows them access to education, which is crucial for them to enter the workforce and begin rebuilding their lives and communities. This isn't a handout, this is smart investment in our neighbors and our future."

“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.”

“World Refugee Day is the perfect time for Congressman Huffman to reintroduce the TORCH Act. It is a time to reflect on the many contributions that resettled refugees, asylees and Special Immigrant Visa holders make across the United States. “HIAS supports The TORCH Act, because it would make these individuals eligible for in-state college tuition while they establish residency in their states , and in doing so, remove a barrier to achieving self-sufficiency as soon as possible after arrival,” said Naomi Steinberg, Vice President, Policy and Advocacy at HIAS. “If passed, the TORCH Act will help to unlock countless educational opportunities for these new Americans and the communities that they now so proudly call home.”

Frequently, it can take years for a refugee, asylee, or Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holder to establish state residency. During this time, they are ineligible for in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities. The TORCH Act ensures that refugees, asylees, and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders from Iraq and Afghanistan are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates in the first state where the individual lives after being admitted to the United States.

The TORCH Act is cosponsored by Reps. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA),  Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Scott Peters (D-CA), Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), George McGovern (D-MA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Andre Carson (D-IL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Jim Langevin (D-RI).

The TORCH Act is supported by: California State University, Human Rights First, Church World Service, HIAS, University of California, International Refugee Assistance Project, and Human Rights First.

Rep. Huffman also introduced the TORCH Act in the 115th Congress.