A government watchdog agency announced Tuesday it has filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit against the Obama administration seeking documents that would shed light on the secretive refugee resettlement program.
Judicial Watch is seeking records and correspondence between the U.S. Department of State and a network of pro-immigrant private agencies that would help explain how nearly 100,000 foreign refugees get distributed to 180 U.S. cities and towns every year. The inner workings of the program have been largely a mystery for decades.
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For example, why does Texas get flooded with more than 7,000 refugees per year while Vice President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware gets almost none?
Why did the federal government decide in the 1990s to start distributing more refugees to rural states like Idaho and North Dakota, which are now seeing a large influx of low-skilled refugees from Somalia, Uzbekistan and Bosnia, many of them taking jobs in corporate-owned food processing plants?
JW has been investigating the refugee resettlement program for months, said Tom Fitton, president of the Washington, D.C.-based organization. But the organization has encountered resistance from a recalcitrant U.S. State Department. A request for documents sent back in May has been ignored, Fitton told WND.
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"It's the sort of basic information one would seek before evaluating a program and how it works," Fitton said. "People often come in the middle of the game and don't understand how it's running, what money is involved and who the players are. This shows once again this administration, which said it would be the most transparent in history, is willing to break the law and use secrecy with impunity to cover up information because if they were totally helpful we'd have had it yesterday."
The U.S. has taken in an average of about 70,000 foreign refugees per year for the past decade. But Obama has informed Congress he plans to increase that to 85,000 in fiscal 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. Much of that increase will come in the form of Muslim refugees from Syria.
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The refugee resettlement program, launched in its current form in 1980, has flown mostly under the radar for 35 years. But when refugees from Syria and elsewhere began flooding into Europe at a rate of tens of thousands per day in August, and when it was discovered that at least one of the eight terrorists who launched the attack on Paris that killed 130 people had entered as a "refugee" with a Syrian passport, the issue became a media magnet.
WND exclusively reported last week that a Somali-American who entered the country as a refugee but left in 2008 to return to Somalia was involved in radicalizing Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack that killed 14 people at a Christmas party. The same refugee also helped inspire the attack on Garland, Texas, in May.
Obama, who had already announced in August his plan to take 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2016 and "many more" the following year, did not back down after the Paris attack.
In fact he doubled down. The Department of Homeland Security launched a slick public-relations campaign and Obama has used his bully pulpit over the past six weeks to repeatedly tout Syrian refugees, characterizing them as "widows and orphans" and chastising his political opponents who were concerned about national security.
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"When it comes to national security no one is watching the store," said Fitton. "You say asylum and use the word refugee and all the politicians in Washington roll over and fall to the ground. No one is working for the national security interests of this country at this point.
"The refugee program is a perfect example," he continued. "We now have confirmation that the ISIS terror network used the refugee system to successfully mount a terror attack in France, and we have intelligence that suggests they're trying to do the same here, and yet despite the clear and present danger of this program from terrorist states and terror networks we now know that the idea they could be carefully vetted is a big lie."
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"Despite all these warnings from our national law enforcement agency, they're still going to allow the process to proceed," Fitton said. "The Republicans in the Senate are going to allow this to proceed and increase the number of Syria refugees by 20 times, despite Paris, despite San Bernardino, and it shows again both parties refuse to protect this country from a border approach."
The U.S. allows approximately 1.1 million legal immigrants to enter the country each year. Syed Farook's Pakistani wife, for instance, came to America on a fiancée visa. There are also guest-worker programs, entrepreneur programs, a visa-lottery program, student visas, and the list goes on.
"Practically speaking, there's no background checks done on most of those folks and the sheer volume suggests it's impossible," Fitton said. "All these programs are exempt from any scrutiny, and it's killing us. It's killing Americans, and Republicans are going to fully fund this and need to be held into account for that the same as Democrats.
"I mean, a million people a year? No government can protect its people against 1 million people every year. I don't know what the appropriate number is but we should figure out what it is and restrict the numbers to that which we can properly vet. Republicans pretend to be against it. No one voted for that, for a million people to come in every year. But Obama's going to get his full funding for this dangerous refugee program along with many other programs."
Since the Syrian civil war broke out more than four years ago, just over 2,200 refugees have been resettled permanently in the United States. And 98 percent of them have been Muslim with less than 2 percent being Christians, despite the fact that Christians make up 10 percent of Syria's population and are the most persecuted religious minority under ISIS-controlled areas. As of Dec. 1 only 53 Syrian Christians had been admitted into the U.S. as refugees since the war started in 2011.
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But the refugees admitted to the U.S. are selected by the United Nations, vetted by the DHS and sent to 180 U.S. cities and towns.
The State Department insists that refugees are the "most rigorously screened" of all travelers to the United States, but FBI Director James Comey has refuted that claim in congressional testimony, saying it's virtually impossible to vet the vast majority of Syrians. The nation has fallen into the chaos of civil war and does not have the records available to cross-check the identities of those claiming to be Syrian refugees, Comey told Congress on Oct. 1.
The U.S. has resettled more than 3 million foreign refugees since 1990, at least half of which have come from Muslim-dominated nations with active jihadist movements. The authority for the resettlement program comes from the Refugee Act of 1980, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
Cost of the program is $1.6 billion per year to taxpayers and this does not include the heavy welfare usage of refugees once they are resettled. More than 74 percent receive food stamps, for example, and that statistic jumps to 90 percent for refugees coming from the Middle East.
Paid 'by the head' to distribute refugees
Nine private resettlement agencies, also called voluntary agencies or VOLAGs, contract with the federal government to carry out the resettlements. Six of the nine are affiliated with religious groups such as the Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian and evangelical churches. They get paid $1,950 per refugee and get to keep about $750 of that for administrative costs.
The VOLAG contractors have been pushing since last year for the Obama administration to accept between 65,000 and 100,000 Syrian refugees by the end of Obama's term in office. Instead, he agreed to take "at least 10,000" this year and "many more" the following year, without committing to a specific number.
WND has learned that weekly teleconferences are held between federal bureaucrats in Washington and the VOLAGs, to decide how many refugees to send, from what countries into which U.S. cities.
The JW lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to two Freedom of Information Act requests submitted on May 22 and Sept. 14.
The FOIA request submitted on May 22 seeks the following records:
- All Cooperation Agreements for the years 2014 and 2015 between the Department of State and the voluntary agencies involved in providing reception and placement services to refugees arriving in the United States.
- All Reception and Placement abstracts for the years 2014 and 2015 furnished to the Department of State by voluntary agencies, entities subcontracting to voluntary agencies, or entities affiliated with voluntary agencies regarding the provision of reception and placement services to refugees arriving in the United States.
- All transcripts of hearings held in 2014 and 2015 by the Department of State with representatives from voluntary agencies, entities subcontracting to voluntary agencies, entities affiliated with voluntary agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services, and/or the Office of Refugee Settlement regarding the provision of reception and placement services to refugees arriving in the United States.
- All comments submitted to the State Department by members of the public at the hearings identified in Bullet 3 above.
- All records reflecting the number of refugees, their countries of origin, and destinations in the United States in which they were settled by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) through R&P programs for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015.
The second FOIA request, submitted Sept. 14 seeks:
- All records pertaining to a meeting held on Aug. 25, 2015, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, between representatives from the State Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement and/or Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and representatives from the nonprofit evangelical VOLAG World Relief. Records sought shall include, but not be limited to, notices of the meeting, meeting agenda, transcripts, recordings, materials presented by World Relief, multimedia presentations, abstracts, contracts and any other materials.
The governors of more than 30 states are refusing to participate in the refugee resettlement program as a result of the Paris attacks, but the federal contractors continue to send refugees to these states regardless of their protests.
World Relief is a federal contractor that settles refugees in South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley and other elected officials recently objected to any attempt to settle Syrian refugees there.
More than 40 Somali refugees or their children have left the United States to fight for ISIS, al-Shabab and other foreign terror organizations since 2007, the FBI has confirmed. One of them is reportedly tied to the San Bernardino and Garland, Texas, terrorist attacks.
“The Obama administration doesn’t want Americans to know about how it places refugees from terrorist states in their local communities,” said Fitton. "The fact we had to file a federal lawsuit to obtain basic information about Obama’s dangerous refugee plans should tell Americans (and Congress) that the Obama administration has something to hide about refugees, terrorism, and national security."