A few congressmen are fighting to block the planned importation of thousands of Syrian refugees into American cities and towns, arguing that they present a grave security risk because many Syrians have ties to the Sunni rebel groups ISIS and al-Nusra Front.
But the fact is, as President Obama ignores the concerns of U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and others on the House Homeland Security Committee, the Syrians have already started to arrive stateside.
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Since January, more than 70 U.S. cities have been on the receiving end of a Syrian visitation.
WND has compiled a complete list of cities (see chart below) that received Syrian refugees since Jan. 1. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has as many as 11,000 Syrians in a pipeline waiting for admission into the U.S., which is responsible for screening them for criminal and terrorist activity.
And therein lies the problem.
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McCaul has tried to block the arrival of the Syrians based on testimony from FBI counter-terrorism experts. As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, he held a hearing on the national security risks of the Syrian refugee program in February and has scheduled a second hearing for June 24. He's also sent two letters to Obama, urging him not to let the U.N. refugee program become a "jihadist pipeline" into the United States.
The Syrian civil war, now more than four years old, has chased more than 3.8 million Syrians from their homes, according to the U.N., which has about 130,000 it wants to resettle permanently in outside countries.
Some of the top destination points in the past few months have been in Texas, where the cities of Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston have each received more than 20 Syrians since January.
Chicago has received 42 Syrians so far this year, more than any other city, while San Diego has taken in 25 and Phoenix 20.
The troubled city of Baltimore has not been left out. It has received 19 Syrians while Louisville, Kentucky, has taken in 21.
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"Baltimore is already suffering with all of the black crime violence (in the wake of the Freddie Gray death) and now we're going to plunk down 19 Syrians," said Ann Corcoran, who runs the watchdog blog Refugee Resettlement Watch. "It doesn't make sense."
WND reported earlier this week that 93 percent of the 922 Syrian refugees resettled into the U.S. since the civil war started in 2011 have been Muslim. The vast majority, 86 percent, have been Sunni Muslims, which means some could have ties to the Sunni rebel groups fighting to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a Shiite Alowite.
Assad protected the Christian minorities who have now come under brutal attack from ISIS and al-Nusra. Yet, only 4.9 percent of the 922 Syrians brought to the U.S. so far as refugees have been Christians.
Syria is home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities. It was in Antioch, Syria, where followers of Jesus Christ were first called "Christians," yet their churches have been destroyed and their families decimated by ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists. Many have watched family members beheaded or shot in front of their eyes.
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"Syria represents the single largest convergence of Islamic terrorists in history," McCaul wrote in his June 11 letter to Obama.
It also represents the largest refugee crisis.
The United States takes in more U.N.-designated refugees than the rest of the world combined. Of the 130,000 Syrians the U.N wants to permanently resettle, the U.S. is being asked to take half, or about 65,000, by the end of Obama's term in office.
The State Department insists they are "intensely screened" even as the FBI has admitted they are impossible to screen because the U.S. has no "boots on the ground in Syria" and Syria is a "failed state" with no reliable law-enforcement data, said Michael Steinbach, deputy director of the FBI's counter-terrorism unit, in his Feb. 11 testimony before McCaul's committee.
Growing 'pockets of resistance'
The State Department, working through nine private contractors and 350 subcontractors, resettles U.N.-certified refugees into more than 190 cities and towns across America. The refugee program has operated in its current form since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
Some cities in recent years have begun to push back against the arrival of refugees in their communities, saying they have become a burden on social services and aren't finding jobs that will support themselves without government assistance. Elected leaders in Clarkston, Georgia, for instance, complained in 2011 to Gov. Nathan Deal, who was able to strike a deal in which no new refugees would be sent to the town other than family members of existing refugees.
The mayors of Lynn and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as Manchester, New Hampshire, and Athens, Georgia, have also questioned why they can't have more information and influence over how many refugees get sent to their towns. These have been dubbed "pockets of resistance" by the resettlement agencies working for the federal government. A manual was written by one contractor on how to deal with local grassroots activists who push back against the arrival of refugees.
WND last month uncovered a document authored by one of the federal government's main resettlement contractors that detailed plans to counter the growing "backlash" that is occurring in many cities that would like to shut the refugee spigot off, or at least slow it down. The report recommended monitoring blogs by activists and turning in some to the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center which could then brand them as "anti-Muslim" or guilty of "Islamophobia."
The most recent uprising has been in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the district of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Gowdy has tried to gather facts on exactly how the program works so he can answer the questions being asked of him by an organized resistance to World Relief's plans to resettle 60 refugees from Congo, Syria and other countries over the next year.
So far, no Syrians have arrived in Spartanburg, but they have arrived and will continue to arrive in ever larger numbers in many other cities and towns. The chart below logs the numbers who have arrived just in the past five months.
Some of the questions Gowdy has pressed the State Department to answer are:
- Who makes the ultimate decision as to which cities get refugees from what countries?
- What variables are taken into consideration when distributing these refugees? Is it done, for instance, according to population density, geography, job and housing availability or availability of welfare benefits?
- What local officials are brought into the decision-making process and at what point?
- How are the other "stakeholders" chosen in the receiving communities?
- How are the financial and economic impacts of the refugees to taxpayer-funded budgets being measured in the various cities where they are sent?
Hiding behind 'public-private partnerships'
As Gowdy discovered, the State Department dodged most of the questions that concerned Americans have been asking for years.
After Secretary of State John Kerry provided an initial response that Gowdy called vague and "wholly inadequate," the State Department followed up by saying any further information would have to come from the resettlement agency. In the case of Spartanburg, that would be World Relief, an evangelical agency that contracts with the government on resettlement work. Because it is a private agency, World Relief considers its reports on individual cities to be "proprietary information." The public is not invited to the quarterly meetings in the receiving communities nor, typically, is the local media.
Approximately 70 percent of World Relief's revenues last year came from government grants totaling $41.2 million, according to its IRS returns. It also receives funding from foundations such as the Vanguard Charitable Foundation, Mustard Seed Foundation, Soros Fund Charitable Foundation, Pfizer Foundation and Global Impact.
Besides World Relief, the other eight resettlement agencies that contract with the government are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Church World Service, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the International Rescue Committee, Episcopal Migration Ministries, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and the Ethiopian Community Development Council.
These nine agencies present themselves to local communities as "charities."
But if they are truly doing the Lord's work, why are their budgets funded so heavily by the government, and why have they agreed to carry out their work without sharing the gospel message to their refugee clients, many activists have asked.
The nine contractors share the wealth with more than 350 subcontractors. For instance, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops subcontracts with Catholic Charities, while Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service subcontracts with Lutheran Social Services and Church World Service contracts with affiliates of the National Council of Churches.
Many of the agencies and their myriad subcontractors also accept donations from leftist foundations tied to George Soros, Bill Gates, the Tides Foundation, Walmart, Target, the Komen Foundation, the United Way and many others.
Big money flows into resettlement business
According to research in a new book by James Simpson, an independent investigative journalist, the Lutheran resettlement efforts, which have been very active in bringing Somali refugees into Minnesota among other places, are financed 92 percent by the government. This Lutheran "charity" also receives donations from George Soros' Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, Global Impact, Fidelity Investments, Bank of America and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Simpson sums up the program in his book, "The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America." He writes:
"Hatched by the U.N. and the American Left, the resettlement agenda is dedicated to erasing our culture, traditions and laws, and creating a compliant, welfare-dependent multicultural society with no understanding of America’s constitutional framework and no interest in assimilation. The ultimate target is a voting base large enough for the Left’s long-sought 'permanent progressive majority.'
"Most people would be shocked to know that America currently takes more refugees from the world's ghettos than all other refugee resettlement countries in the world combined. The State Department brags about it. Furthermore, most of those refugees are referred to the United States by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The refugees (and the illegal aliens flooding the southern border from Central America) are then 'resettled' by taxpayer funded 'Voluntary Agencies' or VOLAGs as they are called."
And the CEOs of these resettlement agencies get paid handsomely. According to Simpson's research, they bring in six-figure salaries of between $300,000 and $500,000 per year.
Of the nine main resettlement agencies, six are faith-based or as Simpson says, "nominally religious," because they operate with mainly government cash and they are forbidden by their government contracts from evangelizing their clients, many of whom are Muslim.
"All are in it for the money and top staff make high six figures," Simpson writes. "Together the VOLAGs are paid close to $1 billion in taxpayer dollars to resettle refugees. Two more organizations (including Baptist Family and Children Services) who settle most of the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) brought the total to over $1.3 billion last year."
Forty-nine of the 50 states, with Wyoming being the lone exception, have a refugee resettlement program in place with the federal government. In most states the governor appoints a refugee resettlement coordinator to handle the shipments of refugees, but in 12 states the contractors handle the refugees with little or no input from the governor's office.