With only 47 days left in office, President Obama is pushing forward to bring as many Muslim refugees into the United States as possible. 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, Fox News reports.
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.
“This is a backroom deal, wheeling and dealing with another country’s refugee problem,” Center for Immigration Studies fellow Don Barnett told FoxNews.com. “I don’t believe for a moment it’s a one-time deal. That’s for public consumption.”
Via Fox News:
The move has also raised a red flag among Congressional oversight members.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, key lawmakers Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., complained about the lack of transparency.
“This situation is concerning for many reasons,” read the letter, charging that “your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress.”
Screeners from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services are set to leave for the Pacific Island nations next month to begin vetting the refugees.
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.’”
Australia has been under fire for paying poor surrounding island nations to house detention centers for refugees. Australia created the camps in an effort to curtail “people smuggling” and has long had a policy which prevents individuals seeking asylum from entering the country before being vetted.
In a statement, the State Department said the Obama administration is proud of its role in taking in refugees, even ones other nations don’t want.
“The United States is proud of its long history as the largest refugee resettlement country in the world,” read the statement. “As the President has announced, our refugee resettlement program has grown substantially in the last year.
“The United States has agreed to consider referrals from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of refugees now residing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea,” the statement continued. “These refugees are of special interest to UNHCR and we are engaged on a humanitarian basis, as we are in other parts of the world.”
The Goodlatte-Grassley letter also asked why Australia and other countries refused to take in the refugees.
“If they’ve been vetted and deemed inadmissible, the U.S. can’t say, ‘You don’t want them, so we’ll take them,’” said Barnett.
Speaking at a Nov. 14 press conference, Turnbull said, “Nobody is taking any more refugees, but what the Americans are doing is assisting these individuals on Nauru and Manus by bringing them in within their existing quota.”
The Obama administration increased the quota for the 12-month period that began in October to 110,000 refugees, up from 85,000 the previous year.
Turnbull’s announcement that his country would be “taking more refugees from Central America” as part of some “commitments at President Obama’s Refugee Summit” has also sparked speculation that the deal is a trade of refugees from the most dangerous areas of the world for ones from Central America.
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