Fix­ing the bro­ken refugee pro­gram

Congress needs to re­gain con­trol of Obama’s un­ac­count­able re­set­tle­ment scheme

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Raul Labrador and Bob Good­latte Raul Labrador is a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Idaho and vice chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Sub­com­mit­tee on Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Se­cu­rity. Repub­li­can Bob Good­latte of Vir­ginia is chair­man of

As Amer­i­cans, we have a long tra­di­tion of help­ing refugees who, through no fault of their own, are flee­ing war and per­se­cu­tion and wish to be­come con­tribut­ing mem­bers of our so­ci­ety. It’s a moral call­ing and one of the things that makes our coun­try great. How­ever, the most im­por­tant fac­tor when it comes to Amer­ica’s refugee pro­gram is en­sur­ing the safety and se­cu­rity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. There are al­ready doc­u­mented cases of ter­ror­ists in­fil­trat­ing the pro­gram, and with ISIS vow­ing to ex­ploit it fur­ther, the time for con­gres­sional ac­tion is now.

This week, the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee be­gan con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion we in­tro­duced to fix our bro­ken refugee pro­gram. Our bill im­ple­ments stronger vet­ting, gives states and com­mu­ni­ties the power to de­cline re­set­tle­ment, and low­ers the an­nual refugee ceil­ing to the num­ber rec­om­mended by Pres­i­dent Trump. It’s a smart bill that is wor­thy of bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

To be clear, we sup­port Amer­ica’s refugee pro­gram. But it needs to be mod­ern­ized to keep pace with the se­cu­rity chal­lenges of to­day’s world.

Ac­cord­ing to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, more than 300 peo­ple who came to the United States as refugees are under ac­tive ter­ror-re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the FBI. Sev­eral refugees have al­ready been ar­rested on fed­eral ter­ror­ism charges. For ex­am­ple, two Iraqi refugees ad­mit­ted to the United States in 2009 — Mo­hanad Sha­reef Ham­madi and Waad Ra­madan Al­wan — con­fessed to us­ing im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices against U.S. sol­diers in Iraq and send­ing weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq for the pur­pose of killing Amer­i­can sol­diers. Last year, two refugees from Iraq — Omar Faraj Saeed Al Har­dan and Aws Mo­hammed You­nis Al-Jayab — were ar­rested for at­tempt­ing to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port to ISIS and for ly­ing to U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials about their al­leged ties to ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions. This is a se­ri­ous fail­ure of the gov­ern­ment’s most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity — keep­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple safe.

Under cur­rent law the Amer­i­can peo­ple have lit­tle say about the refugee pro­gram since their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives have lit­tle author­ity over the num­ber of refugees ad­mit­ted into the coun­try, or where they are re­set­tled.

When con­cerns about the lack of vet­ting for Syr­ian refugees erupted in 2015, over half of Amer­ica’s gov­er­nors op­posed let­ting them into their states. This op­po­si­tion tracked with the Amer­i­can peo­ple, as poll af­ter poll showed a ma­jor­ity had con­cerns about ac­cept­ing Syr­ian refugees. Re­set­tle­ment con­tin­ues de­spite their con­cerns.

Our Refugee Pro­gram In­tegrity Restora­tion Act fixes these prob­lems. The bill en­hances the in­tegrity of the refugee pro­gram, curbs fraud and pro­tects national se­cu­rity. No­tably, it re­quires the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a fraud­u­lent doc­u­ment de­tec­tion pro­gram and the cre­ation of a search­able data­base of scanned doc­u­ments. It also re­quires fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers to re­view pub­licly avail­able In­ter­net post­ings, in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia, for each ap­pli­cant.

The bill cre­ates a sec­ond line of de­fense once the refugee is ad­mit­ted by al­low­ing reg­u­lar se­cu­rity vet­ting of each ad­mit­ted refugee un­til they change their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. It also re­quires the non­par­ti­san Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice to re­port on the se­cu­rity of the U.S. Refugee Ad­mis­sions Pro­gram, the num­ber of refugees con­victed of ter­ror­ism-re­lated of­fenses, and the use of fed­er­ally funded ben­e­fit pro­grams.

Our bill em­pow­ers the Amer­i­can peo­ple by al­low­ing their elected of­fi­cials to de­cide whether to re­set­tle refugees in their com­mu­ni­ties. The Refugee Pro­gram In­tegrity Restora­tion Act re­duces the refugee ceil­ing to 50,000 an­nu­ally — the num­ber pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Trump — and shifts to Congress author­ity to change the num­ber. No longer will the pres­i­dent be able to de­cide uni­lat­er­ally how many refugees come to the United States, as Pres­i­dent Obama re­peat­edly did. This en­sures uni­for­mity, with Congress set­ting an­nual lim­its, as is the case for all other im­mi­gra­tion pro­grams with an­nual lim­its.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple have been — and will al­ways be — com­pas­sion­ate and gen­er­ous, but we must not al­low bad ac­tors to take ad­van­tage of that. The Refugee Pro­gram In­tegrity Restora­tion Act makes mean­ing­ful re­forms to our refugee pro­gram, en­abling it to meet the se­cu­rity chal­lenges of the 21st cen­tury.


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