The White House kicked off “Welcoming Refugee Week” Thursday, two days after it informed Congress it would be boosting the number of refugees delivered to American shores by nearly 30 percent.
The Obama administration told Congress it wants to permanently resettle 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017 which begins Oct. 1, roughly half of them coming from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma and other jihadist hotspots where vetting of refugees is extremely difficult.
That’s a frightening number for many conservatives in Congress – up 29 percent from 2016 levels of 85,000 refugees, and up 57 percent from 2015 when 70,000 refugees were delivered to U.S. cities and towns. But the actual numbers will likely end up being much higher than even the president is admitting, possibly as high as 150,000 to 200,000, experts say.
That’s because, as WND earlier reported, the Obama administration has consulted with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grande on ways to bring more refugees from Syria into the United States under “alternative pathways.” This stream of refugees would not be called refugees at all, but rather they would enter the U.S. on student visas, health visas, expansion of the family-reunification visa and other creative methods.
Under the Refugee Act of 1980, a law authored by the late Ted Kennedy, most of the authority over the program was given to the executive branch. Congress controls funding for the program, but everything else – how many refugees come from what countries and where they get sent upon arrival in the U.S. – is controlled by the president. Congress, regardless of what party is in control, has in 35 years never denied funding for a president’s refugee program, meaning it is very unlikely it will do so this year.
Finally, the people get a choice
But this year, the American people actually have a choice, by electing Donald Trump to the White House, says conservative writer Daniel Horowitz, author of “Stolen Sovereignty.” Trump has said he will stop all refugee resettlement from terrorist-harboring countries. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, has said she intends to increase the resettlements from Syria by 550 percent.
Horowitz, in a column for Conservative Review, said conservatives should make the refugee issue the issue of the 2016 election. He sees it as perhaps the last chance to avoid the destructive path of Europe, which has been inundated with refugees from Muslim Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.
“Just today, Germany arrested three Syrian refugees on suspicion that they have ties to the Islamic State,” Horowitz noted. “That Obama could unilaterally force a similar policy down the throats of American citizens as Congress sits back impotently – without learning the lessons of Europe – is horrific.”
The president is required by the 1980 Refugee Act to consult with Congress on how many refugees will be sent to America annually. Often when administration officials talk about numbers, it’s a moving target for different regions of the world with a contingent left on “reserve” that can come from any region. Noticeably absent are hard numbers coming from each country or a report on what states and communities they will be going to.
Many of the governors have complained that refugees have been dropped in their states without their notification or consent.
The administration is also reclassifying many of the children and families flooding into the U.S. from Central America as “refugees,” as WND reported earlier this year. By giving them refugee status, the Central Americans will immediately qualify to receive federal food stamps, Medicaid and other federal benefits while placing them on a fast-track to full citizenship within five years.
Congress has the power to deny funding for Obama’s expanded refugee plans, but despite tough talk it capitulated last year and funded every one of his 85,000 refugees, including 10,000 from Syria.
A recent poll, conducted in May by the Brookings Institute, shows the public leans in favor of accepting refugees but only in small doses, not anything near the levels proposed by Obama. The poll found that when asked how many the U.S. should resettle in 2017, the median answer among Democrats was 15,000, and the median answer among Republicans was just 10,000, the Washington Times reports.
Backlash spreads as cities, counties say ‘no’
But not all cities and counties are rolling over for the president’s refugee plan. There has been major backlash in Twin Falls, Idaho; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Missoula and Helena, Montana; and parts Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, North and South Dakota.
Michigan has been a particularly hard hit receiving point for Syrian refugees, receiving 1,222 this year, more than any other state except California. Most have gone to three counties – Wayne, Oakland and Macomb – but other counties are getting antsy.
The Iosco County Board of Commissioners in northeastern Michigan passed a resolution against the federal Refugee Resettlement Program on Sept. 7, stating that it will accept no state funds for refugee resettlement. At least four counties in South Carolina have passed similar resolutions.
“This puts Iosco County on the map as a common sense place where the leadership is more concerned about the security of its citizens than about political correctness or deceptive economic development rhetoric,” said Dick Manasseri, spokesman for SecureMichigan.org, a resettlement watchdog group.
“It is particularly timely, since President Obama has just announced his FY 2017 refugee number – up 29 percent, and since we have seen the 2017 plans for 19 vendor offices in Michigan to bring in 38 percent more refugees than in FY 2016 including via new offices in Flint and Traverse City.”
Nearly 90 percent of all Middle Eastern refugees assigned to the United States by the U.N. have had their applications approved.
The State Department has been approving applications at an “astonishing rate” as the administration tries to meet this year’s goal, with just 17 days left in the fiscal year, the Washington Times reports. More than 3,600 refugees were admitted in one three-day stretch last week, including 600 Syrians, bringing the total for the year to more than 77,000 as of Tuesday, according to the Times.
The increased influx of refugees has left some communities struggling with the cost of housing and educating them. Mayors in Amarillo, Texas; Athens, Georgia; Manchester, New Hampshire and others have sought to slow the flow of refugees to their communities.
The House Judiciary Committee is pushing legislation that would give local officials a say in whether they can handle an influx.
“We must remain compassionate toward refugees, but we also need to make sure that we use common sense,” committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., told the Times. “Unfortunately, President Obama unilaterally increases the number of refugees resettled in the United States each year and gives little thought as to how it will impact local communities.”