President Obama and his top administrative staffers, in what’s being described as an unprecedented move, have agreed to allow 2,465 refugees from terrorism hotspots into the United States, after Australia rejected them.
What’s more, Obama’s State Department is granting the refugees classified status, so even Congress can’t get details on their backgrounds.
Fox News has the story:
“Nearly 2,500 refugees from terrorism hotspots around the world are bound for the U.S. after being rejected by Australia, but not even top lawmakers can get answers about who they are.
“In an unprecedented move, the U.S. State Department has classified details on refugees to be resettled in America via a secret deal made with Australia. The bi-lateral agreement, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a ‘one-off,’ involves 2,465 people currently being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who will now be transferred onto U.S. soil.”
Center for Immigration Studies fellow Don Barnett described the deal as frightening.
“This is a backroom deal, wheeling and dealing with another country’s refugee problem,” he said, in Fox News. “I don’t believe for a moment it’s a one-time deal.”
Congressional members are buzzing about the news as well.
Key lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry to express alarm.
“This situation,” they wrote, “is concerning for many reasons,” not the least of which is that “your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress.”
U.S. Customs and Immigration Services officials are due to vet the refugees starting in January, at a location in the Pacific Islands.
In the meanwhile, congressional attempts to get information about the refugees have fallen flat.
From Fox News:
“When staffers probed the number of individuals being considered for resettlement, they were told it was ‘classified,’ even though refugee admissions are traditionally public. Officials, however, did confirm countries of origin to be Iran, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Sudan, as well as some deemed ‘stateless.’
“Iran, Sudan and Syria are the three countries on the U.S. current State Sponsors of Terrorism list. But Barnett said the ‘stateless’ category is most worrisome.
“These could be Burmese Muslims, who have posed assimilation issues for every nation which has taken them,’ said Barnett. ‘It’s a dangerous precedent which says, ‘We’ll take any ethnic group with which you don’t get along.'”
Grassley and Goodlatte also asked in their letter for the reasons Australia turned down these particular refugees.
But so far: No answers.
The White House recently boosted the number of refugees that America would accept between October 2016 and October 2017 to 110,000, up from 85,000.