Word on the Hill: Actor’s Fight for Syrian Refugees is Personal

And why Elmo and Rosita were walking around Rayburn

Actor F. Murray Abraham, right, and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline arrive for a briefing in the Capitol Visitor Center on the importance of resettling Syrian refugees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Actor F. Murray Abraham, right, and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline arrive for a briefing in the Capitol Visitor Center on the importance of resettling Syrian refugees. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted May 18, 2016 at 7:00am

The Syrian refugee crisis is very personal for Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham.  

His father came to the U.S. during the 1920s famine in Syria.  

“About a hundred years ago, members of Congress welcomed my father as a young boy when he came here to escape starvation from Syria,” said Abraham, who stars on Showtime’s “Homeland.”   

Abraham cried as he spoke about Syrian refugees  at a congressional briefing at the Capitol Visitor Center hosted by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, a coalition of faith-based organizations.  

“The Syrian people are not to be feared,” he told the audience at the event titled “They Have Faces and Names: Fresh Approaches to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.”  



[Related: White House Hedges on Syrian Refugees]

Some people, Abraham said, have suggested that welcoming Syrians into the U.S. is a responsibility.  

“I say it’s our privilege,” he said.   

Members of Congress who turned out to show their support for Syrian refugees included Democratic Reps. Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois., David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Zoe Lofgren of California.  

“We’re going to continue to work. And I have to say, we’re going to stand up for Syrian refugees in this country because it is who we are as a nation,” Gutiérrez said.

Elmo and Members Team Up to Help Military

Sesame Street's Elmo, center, and Rosita, right, leave the Rayburn House Office Building after participating in a USO event to assemble care packages for troops overseas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sesame Street’s Elmo, center, and Rosita, right, leave the Rayburn House Office Building after participating in a USO event to assemble care packages for troops overseas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sesame Street’s Elmo and Rosita celebrated the USO’s 75th birthday on Capitol Hill by helping assemble 1,500 care packages for military personnel.  

Several members from the USO Congressional Caucus walked around with the red and blue flurry characters Tuesday to fill up brown USO sacks, which will be sent to 180 locations around the world on a request basis from the military.  

“We’ve got work to do,” said the caucus’ co-chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., as he looked at the boxes of supplies.  

[Related: Jay Leno Talks USO Tours] Lined up on tables inside the Rayburn foyer were KIND bars, gum, M&Ms, applesauce, peanuts and other items to be packed.  

[USO] makes the transition and makes those difficult times easier,” said co-chairman Tim Walz, D-Minn..  

Walz thanked Miller, who is retiring after his current term , for his efforts on the caucus, saying the Florida Republican is “moving onto greener pastures.”  

Other members who participated in making care packages included Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.  


Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.