WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell’s proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, calling for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and nationals from Yemen, received approval last night from the House Committee on Rules for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Dingell’s district is home to one of the largest populations of Yemenis and Yemeni-Americans in the United States. Approximately 9 percent of the Arab American community in the Detroit and Dearborn area has roots in the embattled Arab country.
Dingell’s proposed amendment to H.R. 1735 appeals to the president to exercise all available authorities to evacuate United States citizens and nationals from Yemen, but has no force law. It will be included in a package of en bloc amendments the House will consider this week.
“Our office has been deluged with calls from Yemeni-Americans, most of them my constituents, who are desperate to escape or have family trapped in Yemen,” said Dingell (D-Dearborn). “They are looking for a lifeline and they do not know how to get help. They need to know the government is on their side and has not forgotten them. That is why this amendment expressing the sense of Congress is so important.”
Since the closure of the United States Embassy in Yemen in February, more than 550 Yemeni-Americans have registered as being unable to leave the country amid a growing civil war.
This week, NPR published the story of Rhonia Aladashi, a 16-year-old girl from Dearborn, who traveled to Yemen to visit her father when hostilities began. Her family tried to escape to Saudi Arabia, but they were denied entry because they were without a male escort.
They then had to re-enter the war zone in Yemen and make the perilous journey south to the port of Aden, where they were able to find a private touring boat that was making the 130-mile trip to Djibouti. They had to travel at night to avoid gunfire from rebels, and there was little food and water on board.
“My constituents are looking for a safe route to come home,” Dingell said. “We should not advocate for any action that would put American troops or additional personnel in harm’s way. We are simply asking the administration to make every possible effort to safely evacuate U.S. citizens.
China, Ethiopia, India and Russia have all taken the necessary steps to evacuate their citizens. If possible, so should the United States.”
Dingell said she has been in close contact with State Department officials since the crisis in Yemen began. Last month, she wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to take increased steps to evacuate American citizens, protect those stranded in Yemen, and improve communication with families.
To read the letter, go to https://debbiedingell.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congresswoman-dingell-urges-state-department-take-action-protect. The State Department has also established a website (https://tfa.state.gov/ccd) to help register American citizens in Yemen and provide information and updates.