Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding information about the reported pending move of dozens of foreign refugees from Syria, North Africa and elsewhere into South Carolina.
Gowdy is chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee responsible for the refugee resettlement program overseen by the State Department. Yet, he says in the letter, he was kept totally in the dark about the proposed resettlement of refugees into his own district in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Ann Corcoran, a longtime watchdog over the refugee program and author of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog, says Gowdy is the first member of Congress to demand answers to basic questions about this program since she took up her crusade eight years ago to expose secrecy, fraud and lax oversight in the program.
The program has flown under the radar for more than 25 years but controversy flared in February when a top FBI counter-terrorism official, Michael Steinbach, testified before the House Homeland Security committee and said the U.S. has no way to vet the Syrian refugees for possible connections to the Islamic State, also called ISIS, and other terrorist organizations. As WND reported, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, sent a letter to the White House Jan. 28 citing “serious national security concerns” about the Syrian refugee program and imploring Obama to not let it become a “back door for jihadists.”
In fact, dozens of Islamic refugees from Iraq, Somalia and other countries have already been charged and convicted of providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations while others have left the country to fight for ISIS in Syria and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Now, Gowdy has taken the fight for information on exactly how this program works to a new level, demanding answers for the Spartanburg resettlement from none other than John Kerry.
But he needs to go one step further, Corcoran said. As chairman of the subcommittee charged with overseeing this program, Gowdy must demand answers for the communities in all 49 states that participate in the U.S. refugee program, not just his own state or district. That would require holding hearings, she said, because this issue affects communities across the U.S., not just Spartanburg.
“Maybe due to Gowdy’s swift and decisive action, other communities, which are being kept in the dark, will get some relief,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone in Congress do this. Trey Gowdy has directed a letter to John Kerry asking all the right questions.”
The U.S. has been taking in an average of about 70,000 refugees per year over the past few years. The refugees are placed in housing and schools and given free healthcare. They are put on a fast track toward full U.S. citizenship, often within five years.
Gowdy has asked Kerry to provide answers on how Spartanburg was selected for the opening of a new resettlement office to be operated by World Relief. He wants to know when the refugees will arrive, how many, and from what countries. He also demanded to know what services will be required, the cost, and how much of the cost will be charged to the federal government.
This is an issue that affects almost every state. The U.S. State Department works with the United Nations to resettle refugees into every state except Wyoming. Charitable organizations such as World Relief, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Church World Services, Episcopal Migration Ministries and the International Rescue Committee operate resettlement offices in 190 communities across the U.S. All of these are private charitable agencies but they receive millions of dollars in federal grants to support their efforts.
WND requested comment from Gowdy Tuesday morning.
“We don’t have any comment at this point beyond our letter sent yesterday,” said Gowdy’s press secretary, Amanda Duvall.
Last week WND reported on the secretive nature of the process in which cities and towns are chosen for the resettlement of foreign refugees, many of them Muslims from areas known to be in upheaval fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, all have devolved into civil sectarian strife, causing the displacement of large numbers of people. Many Christians have been driven from their homes in Iraq and Syria, yet the U.S. has been taking in mostly Muslims from these countries.
And the FBI is not the only intelligence operation warning about the strong likelihood that ISIS will send its militants to Western countries posing as “refugees.”
The Norway’s Police Intelligence Service said in November 2014 that its main concern was individuals misusing the refugee system to bring Syria’s violence to Norway, reported the Nordic Page.
Refugee resettlements are conducted in the U.S. by nine private agencies that contract with the U.S. government, and six of the nine have religious affiliations. These nine contractors in turn subcontract with more than 350 other charitable organizations and churches.
The complete text of Gowdy’s letter, dated April 13, is posted below.
The Honorable John Kerry Secretary U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry,
I write regarding the potential resettlement of refugees to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, area. It has been reported by media outlets, and confirmed by staff within your Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), that a resettlement agency submitted a proposal to open an office in Spartanburg. In addition, it is my understanding that the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) approved the request to resettle a certain number of refugees in Spartanburg.
As the Member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Spartanburg area, I am deeply concerned about the lack of notice, information, and consultation afforded to me and my constituents about this issue. As such, please provide the information requested and answers to questions below:
1. Please provide a copy of the proposal submitted by the resettlement agency and any subsequent correspondence between your Department and the resettlement agency.
2. When was the resettlement agency’s proposal submitted? When was it approved by USRAP?
3. How were the claims made in the proposal as to Spartanburg’s readiness to resettle refugees verified for accuracy by USRAP prior to approval?
4. What, if any, steps were taken to notify and consult with local government officials (elected or otherwise) prior to the approval of the resettlement proposal? If so, who was contacted and did they approve the proposal?
5. Which officials/employees of the South Carolina State government reviewed and approved the resettlement agency’s proposal? When was such approval given? Were these officials/employees contacted by USRAP to independently ensure approval was given?
6. What types of, and how much, funding will the resettlement agency receive from the federal government? How much of that amount must be provided to the refugees and how much can be kept by the resettlement agency?
7. When are the first refugees expected to arrive in Spartanburg?
8. What federal, state, and local benefits are the refugees entitled to receive a) upon designation as a refugee and b) upon resettlement in the Spartanburg area?
9. How many refugees will be resettled in the Spartanburg area?
10. How are the refugees chosen to resettle in Spartanburg?
11. What is the country of origin of each of the refugees to be resettled in the Spartanburg area?
12. Who is responsible for ensuring housing, employment, and education services for the resettled refugees?
13. Who is responsible for ensuring resettled refugees maintain employment, as opposed to tracking employment for the first few months after being resettled?
14. How many of the refugees to be resettled in the Spartanburg area are of the age to attend K–12 schools? Of those, how many need the local government to provide interpreters or teachers who speak the native language of the refugee for the students?
15. Do any of the refugees to be resettled in the Spartanburg area have criminal convictions? If so, for what crimes has each been convicted?
16. Please explain the background check process performed on refugees scheduled to be resettled in Spartanburg.
17. Will this be the only time refugees will be resettled to the Spartanburg area pursuant to the agency’s proposal? Or can additional refugees be resettled pursuant to the proposal?
I request that any plans to resettle refugees in the Spartanburg, South Carolina, area be placed on hold until my constituents and I receive your substantive responses to the questions and information requested in this letter.
Additionally, before moving forward, both the Spartanburg community and I should have time to substantively review the information and be comfortable with the information provided.
As previously stated, I am troubled by the lack of notice and coordination with my office and the Spartanburg community, particularly local officials, regarding the plans to resettle refugees in the area. In that vein, I request at least one month’s notice prior to the arrival of the first refugee in the Spartanburg area. Please contact my Chief of Staff, Cindy Crick, with such notice (864-241-0175 or [email protected]).
Thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this matter.