Weekly Immigration Report September 27, 2016: Voters Oppose Refugee Plan, but He Doesn’t Care

US-Capitol-Building-Public-Domain-460x360From the Federation for American Immigration Reform

  • Voters Oppose Obama’s New Middle East Refugee Plan, Cite National Security Risk
  • Congressional Hearing Highlights Administration’s Low Priority for Enforcement
  • Obama Administration Skips Hearing on Refugee Resettlement Plan
  • Texas Threatens to Withdraw from Refugee Resettlement Program
  • New Report Calls for Reduced Immigration to Help Nation Achieve Sustainability

Voters Oppose Obama’s New Middle East Refugee Plan, Cite National Security Risk

A new Rasmussen poll finds that voters strongly oppose President Obama’s recently announced plan to bring 110,000 refugees—many from the Middle East and Africa—into the country next year, and view that decision as an increased danger to national security. (Rasmussen Reports Poll, Sept. 20, 2016) The poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters and was conducted on September 18-19, 2016, shortly after the terrorist attacks in Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey. (Id.)

According to this recent poll, 48 percent of voters believe the United States should take in no additional refugees from the Middle East and Africa. (Id.) Just 12 percent agree with President Obama’s 110,000 figure, while only six percent think even more refugees should be brought here. (Id.)

Finally, 62 percent of voters believe increasing the number of Middle Eastern and African refugees in the coming year poses an increased national security risk to the United States. (Id.) The public’s concerns are not unfounded, as top national security experts, including some who serve in the Obama administration, have publicly warned that effective vetting of migrants from terrorist hotbeds like Syria is impossible. However, the Obama administration has ignored these warnings, even electing to fast-track  the refugee vetting process from 18-24 months to just three months in order to meet self-imposed admission quotas. (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 12, 2016)

Congressional Hearing Highlights Administration’s Low Priority for Enforcement

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) oversight hearing. ICE Director Sarah Saldaña was the lone witness to testify, facing tough questions from the Committee on the so-called Obama administration “enforcement priorities” and why hundreds of thousands of these criminal aliens have been released back into our communities. (Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016)

Almost immediately, Saldaña was pressed about what actions ICE and, more broadly, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), were taking against recalcitrant countries that refuse to repatriate their criminal aliens, including some with terrorism convictions. (Id.) Since 2013, 86,288 criminal aliens have been released back into U.S. communitiesincluding 8,721 who were released pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis. In Zadvydas, the high court held that a convicted criminal alien who had completed his sentence but whose country of origin refused repatriation could not be detained indefinitely. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 19, 2016) Specifically, Saldaña was asked whether DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has pressured the State Department to withhold visas to these countries. (Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016) Under current immigration law, officials can retaliate against these countries by withholding visas until they are cooperative (See INA § 243(d), 8 U.S.C. § 1253(d); see FAIR Legislative Update, July 19, 2016) Not surprisingly with the little emphasis this administration has placed on enforcement, Saldaña eventually admitted that Secretary Johnson has not taken any action thus far but is considering sending a letter to the State Department regarding Gambia. (Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016)

Saldaña was also asked about the administration’s open support for sanctuary jurisdictions that defy federal immigration law. Despite her background as a prosecutor with a sworn duty to ensure justice, Saldaña yet again claimed her hands are tied. She justified shielding these criminal aliens from deportations, saying these sanctuary jurisdictions have their own laws and claimed that all she can do is use the “power of persuasion” to work with them. (Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016) When Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) followed up asking Saldaña what tools she needed other than the power of persuasion, Saldaña touted the administration’s work to get some “cooperation” from 17 out of the 25 most problematic jurisdictions. (Id.) However, this administration’s lack of immigration enforcement coupled with its opposition to legislation that would require state and local law enforcement agencies to work with ICE is a clear indication they put criminal aliens above the safety of American citizens. (See FAIR Legislative Update, July 28, 2015)

During one point in the hearing, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) questioned Saldaña about a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed on behalf of FAIR that revealed the Obama administration grossly misrepresented the number of subsequent offenses committed by criminal aliens released onto the streets in Fiscal Year 2014 by over 13,000. (See Chairman Goodlatte Statement, FAIR Legislative Update, June 28, 2016) Predictably, Saldaña excused away the numbers but promised to provide the Committee additional information within the week. (Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016)

Finally, the hearing clearly demonstrated this administration’s low priority of interior enforcement. Saldaña testified that ICE needed more resources to meet the department’s needs, however, she was unable to explain why the department then gave back $113 million in funds that had been specifically appropriated for detention and removal purposes.(Judiciary Committee Hearing, Sept. 22, 2016)

Obama Administration Skips Hearing on Refugee Resettlement Plan

Earlier this month, President Obama announced that he will admit 110,000 refugees during Fiscal Year 2017—a nearly 30 percent increase over the 85,000 admissions during the current fiscal year. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 20, 2016) The sharp increase in refugee admissions will likely accommodate many Syrians—and people from other countries known to harbor terrorists—that pose significant risks to national security. (Id.) In response, true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, scheduled an oversight hearing for Wednesday, September 21. Outrageously, the Obama administration refused to participate in the hearing, claiming that no officials from the Departments of State, Homeland Security (DHS), or Health and Human Services (HHS) were available despite sufficient notice.

Chairman Sessions blasted the administration for snubbing its obligations to face congressional oversight. “Despite having sufficient notice of a statutorily required hearing regarding its plans for the Refugee Admissions Program in Fiscal Year 2017, the Obama Administration has once again elected to subordinate both its relationship with Congress and the legitimate concerns of the American people to advance the agenda of the United Nations,” Sessions charged. (Sessions Press Release, Sept. 20, 2016) “The American people deserve explanations about the Administration’s reckless plans to admit 110,000 refugees beginning on October 1, 2016. They demand that their leaders end the lawlessness and abuses in the Refugee Admissions Program, and that their leaders place the safety and security of this country first.” (Id.)

The hearing has been rescheduled for September 28 at 10 a.m. Expected to testify at their hearing are Simon Henshaw, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; Leon Rodriguez, USCIS Director; and Robert Carey, HHS Director of Refugee Resettlement. (Judiciary Committee Hearing Notice) To watch the hearing live tomorrow morning, click here.

Texas Threatens to Withdraw from Refugee Resettlement Program

Texan officials warned the federal government last week that it will withdraw from the federal Refugee Resettlement program unless the federal government fulfills the state’s requests for information and assurance of adequate vetting of relocated refugees. (Texas Tribune, Sept. 21, 2016) Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced last Wednesday that the State informed the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement that it plans to withdraw from the program unless the federal government approves a plan to only accept refugees who  “are fully vetted and do not present a security threat.” (Id.)

Currently, twelve states refuse participation in the Refugee Resettlement program. (Office of Refugee Resettlement) States that withdraw from the program, often referred to as “Wilson-Fish” states, do not participate in the placement process or administer aid to refugees, unless specifically required by state or federal law. Often, the federal government gets around states that refuse to participate with the program by contracting with third party organizations to facilitate placement of refugees into those states. (Id.) Withdrawal from the Refugee Resettlement program, however, will ensure state taxpayer resources are not spent in the resettlement process.

Texas’ warning comes just weeks after the Obama administration announced its plans to increase refugee admissions by nearly 30 percent compared to last year, and a 57 percent increase since fiscal year 2015. (FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 20, 2016) So far, Texas taken in 9.25 percent of all refugees resettled in the nation this year, more than any other state in the country.

In addition to shouldering a disproportionate burden in refugee resettlement, Texas has also been on the front lines of theborder surge that has persisted since President Obama’s creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in 2012. (FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 22, 2015) The federal government’s failure to secure the southern border has also compelled Texas Governor Greg Abbott to order the Texas National Guard to stay patrol border regions, including the Rio Grande Valley. (Id.) “[These actions] would not be necessary if the federal government fulfilled its obligation to secure our nation’s border,” said Governor Abbott. (Id.)

Governor Abbott’s administration sued the federal government late last year for its allege failure to fulfill legal requirements to communicate and cooperate with state officials before resettling any refugees into a state. (FAIR Legislative Update, Dec. 8, 2015) The case was dismissed when a court determined the state did not have an adequate cause of action to pursue its claim. (Texas Tribune, Sept. 1, 2016)

New Report Calls for Reduced Immigration to Help Nation Achieve Sustainability

Reducing immigration is one of the most important factors in achieving environmental sustainability in the U.S., finds a new FAIR report, “U.S. Immigration and the Environment.” America’s rapidly growing population is one of the biggest impediments to meeting critical environmental goals, and immigration is by far the largest factor driving U.S. population growth.

The report notes that immigration fueled more than half of U.S. population growth in the last 50 years, and will generate three-quarters of it in the next 50 years, raising the U.S. population from its current 319 million in 2014 to 417 million by 2060. This level of growth in the human population will have a significant impact on the nation’s efforts to reach sustainability and manage its environmental footprint.

The report notes that population growth and immigration of this magnitude was once a cornerstone issue for the nation’s environmentalists, who now keep the issue at arm’s length because of its politicization. The report makes five recommendations – including a reduction in immigration and setting a national population stabilization policy – noting that any delay reducing immigration will make it increasingly difficult to achieve a political consensus to finally bring immigration back to traditional levels.