The secrecy of the federal refugee-resettlement program has once again been highlighted by a local official who has seen the dark side of the program play out in living color.
In Lowell, Massachusetts, a 13-year-old girl was twice groped at a public pool last week by a 22-year-old man freshly imported into the community from Syria as a "refugee."
Advertisement - story continues below
The city manager of Lowell told his local newspaper Tuesday that he was not even notified by the U.S. State Department or its resettlement contractor that Syrians were being delivered to his community.
Emad Hasso, 22, of Syria pleaded not guilty Friday to inappropriately touching the girl at the state-run Raymond Lord Memorial Pool in Lowell, according to the Lowell Sun.
This marks the second high-profile sexual assault on an American girl in the past month by a refugee. On June 2, a 5-year-old girl in Twin Falls, Idaho, was reportedly raped by an Iraqi refugee boy while an older refugee from Sudan filmed and coached him during the assault.
Advertisement - story continues below
Hasso is one of 18 Syrians, all of them most likely Sunni Muslims, who have been secretly planted in the Lowell community since May, according to the State Department's Refugee Processing Center online database.
City Manager Kevin Murphy said he'd like to receive regular numbers from the federal contractor that resettles refugees in the city. The International Institute subcontracts with the main federal contractor, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, or USCRI, to deliver refugees to Lowell.
The city does not know when or from where refugees come to Lowell, Murphy said, and is only made aware of them when a refugee gets arrested or otherwise singled out for bad behavior.
"I think we'll reach out to the International Institute to see if they could cooperate with us in the future by letting us know when they relocate individuals to Lowell," Murphy said.
Secrecy of refugee program a widespread problem
Advertisement - story continues below
Refugee watchdog Ann Corcoran, who has been following the federal refugee program for nearly nine years, said lack of transparency is the most oft-cited issue by critics, which has included many mayors and governors.
"This is the way they have been running the program forever. They arrogantly have been operating in secrecy for two decades, under the arrogant assumption that we the taxpayers don't deserve to know what is going into our communities, what the costs are, what the security risks are, and so forth," Corcoran told WND.
Refugee resettlement agencies like USCRI, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services hold quarterly "stakeholder meetings" in most communities, but the taxpaying public is never notified of these meetings. And no legal ads or notices about what is discussed at the meetings is ever posted by the resettlement agencies working as fronts for the federal government.
"People don't like secrecy, and that's why we are seeing backlash in every community where this program has been exposed," Corcoran said. "Unfortunately, there are still many communities where it operates completely in the shadows, and residents have no idea what is going on with these refugees."
Advertisement - story continues below
The mayors of Springfield, Massachusetts; Amarillo, Texas; Athens, Georgia; Manchester, New Hampshire, and several other towns have all complained to the Obama administration that they want more information on refugees before their arrival.
More than 24 mostly Republican governors have also complained, writing letters to the Obama administration after the attacks on Paris and San Bernardino last year saying they did not want to receive any Syrian refugees until a better screening system could be devised.
Citizen activists have complained about the same lack of transparency in many other cities including Spartanburg, South Carolina; Twin Falls, Idaho; Fargo, North Dakota; Rochester, Michigan; Missoula, Montana; and several areas of Tennessee.
But nothing has deterred the Obama State Department, which has ignored the complaints and concerns, citing the Refugee Act of 1980 as the source of its authority. That law, authored by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and former Sen. Joe Biden, gives the states and localities very little power to stop the influx of United Nations-selected refugees.
Corcoran said basic information like how many refugees are coming, where they are coming from and what public services they will be using are all vital for any city or county that is serious about controlling its government and school budgets.
Unfortunately, it is usually only after something bad happens that a community starts pressing for more information. Usually a woman or girl gets sexually assaulted by a refugee or a refugee gets arrested for a heinous crime or terroristic threat or action. Then residents start asking questions and learning about the numbers of refugees already permanently resettled in their community and related costs. For example, more than 90 percent of refugees from the Middle East are on food stamps, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and 74 percent are on Medicaid. Most live in low-income subsidized housing.
The International Institute, which resettles refugees in Massachusetts and signs them up for government welfare programs, referred all questions to the U.S. State Department.
Refugees are subject to state and federal laws, and can be removed from the country if they commit a serious crime, a State Department spokesperson told the Sun.
But that rarely happens, according to Corcoran. Once they're here, they're here to stay, and are eligible for full citizenship within five years.
State Department officials stressed to the Sun that refugees are put through extensive security screening before coming to the United States.
But that is in direct opposition to President Obama's own FBI director, James Comey, who testified before Congress last year saying it's virtually impossible to vet the Syrian refugees due to a lack of intel and law enforcement data on them.
FBI counter-terror specialist Michael Steinbach told Congress the same thing, saying there is no data to verify the identity of Syrian "refugees" in a "failed state" broken by civil war. That begs the question: How can the U.S. government vet refugees from other failed states and partially failed states like Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Expanding the program with GOP support
A total of 85,000 refugees are being permanently resettled in more than 190 U.S. cities and towns during fiscal year 2016, up from 70,000 in 2015. President Obama plans to increase the ceiling again in fiscal 2017, to 100,000.
Obama's expanded refugee plans, fully funded by the GOP-controlled Congress, call for 10,000 Syrians to be permanently resettled in the U.S. in fiscal 2016, which ends Sept. 30.
With a little over two months to go before the Sept. 30 deadline, Obama has thus far delivered 5,449 Syrians to the U.S. They are now arriving at a rate of nearly 400 per week.
Where the Syrians are being sent
Cities receiving Syrian refugees over the past nine months include the following:
- Glendale, Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona
- High Point, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina
- San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles, California.
- Atlanta, Savannah, Stone Mountain and Marietta, Georgia
- Dearborn, Clinton Township, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Troy, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, W. Bloomfield Township, Madison Heights, Sterling Heights, Ypsilanti and Lansing, Michigan
- Denver and Thornton, Colorado
- Boise, Idaho
- Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio
- Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse, Brooklyn, Utica, Rochester and New York, N.Y,
- Elizabeth, Camden, Bellmawr, Hawthorne, Jersey City, Moorestown, Woodland Park and Paterson, New Jersey
- Lowell, Worcester, Springfield-West Springfield, Westfield and Billerica, Massachusetts
- Minneapolis, Rochester and Savage, Minnesota
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas
- Erie, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Plano, Sugar Land, Tomball and San Antonio, Texas
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky
- Baltimore, Riverdale, Ellicott City and Silver Spring, Maryland
- Tampa, Clearwater, Jacksonville, Del Ray Beach, Palm Beach, Miami, Orlando, Kissimmee, Lauderdale Lakes, Opa-Locka, Pensacola and Tallahassee, Fla.
- New Haven, Hartford, New Britain, Stratford and West Haven, Connecticut
- Portland, Maine
- Concord, New Hampshire
- Saint Louis, Columbia, Creve Coeur and Kansas City, Missouri
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Portland, Oregon
- Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee
- Charlottesville, Newport News, Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Powhatan and Falls Church, Virginia
- Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Milwaukee-Madison, Wisconsin
- Spokane, Seattle, Richland and Kent, Washington
- Chicago, Rockford, Moline and Hickory Hills, Illinois
- Indianapolis and Carmel, Indiana
- Providence, Rhode Island
Obama ignored the concerns of the governors and began delivering Syrians en masse to almost every state along with a steady stream of Somali, Afghan, Iraqi and Burmese Muslims.
Syrian in Lowel claims groping was 'accident'
Hasso was arrested by environmental police at the pool area in Lowell. The girl told police Hasso asked her age and twice touched her on the upper thigh. In court, Hasso said through an interpreter he may have accidentally bumped into the girl but did not assault her.
Hasso is part of one of four Syrian families resettled by the International Institute from October 2015 through July.
Hasso's family was resettled into 82 Willie St. in the city's Acre neighborhood, the Sun reported. A man who answered the door at that address Monday evening provided a piece of paper to the Sun reporter Amelia Pak Harvey, indicating that he did not speak English.
Prosecutor Sam Miller reported on Thursday the 13-year-old girl said a man approached her, touched her upper thigh and asked her age. The girl told him she was too young for him and walked away.
Hasso then allegedly followed the girl around the pool. While swimming, he again approached her, touched her upper thigh and asked her age. Miller said the girl responded that she was a "little kid, leave me alone." At that point, other people at the pool, including the lifeguard, saw some of the interaction between Hasso and the alleged victim and intervened.
Migrant sex assaults mounting in Europe
The news of the groping of the 13-year-old girl mirrors the problems that European countries such as Sweden, France, Italy and Germany have had with Muslim migrants who have surged into those countries over the past two years. Many German towns have had to temporarily ban co-ed swimming and Sweden's famed co-ed bathhouses have had to post signs instructing migrants that they are not allowed to touch female bathers' breasts or other body parts.
Muslim sex attacks at public swimming pools in Europe are so frequent that Muslims have been banned in multiple areas, including all of Austria
In May, a 20-year-old Afghan migrant was arrested after sexually assaulting a six-year-old boy in the changing room of a Munich sports hall.
Sweden is at the top of the E.U.'s statistics on physical and sexual violence against women, sexual harassment and stalking. A police report stated unequivocally that it is "asylum-seeker boys" and "foreign men" who commit the vast majority of the reported crimes.
Just last weekend, five rapes and 40 cases of "severe groping" were reported to police at a free concert in Karlstad, Sweden.
As WND has previously reported, most young men who have grown up in Shariah-compliant countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria have been taught that a woman who uncovers herself and isn't wearing a hijab is "asking" to be raped.
To unleash these young men into public swimming pools without putting them through intensive cultural sensitivity training is simply irresponsible, Corcoran said.
In Sweden, the problem has gotten so bad that Swedish women have started "vigilante patrols" as swimming pools, the Independent reports.
The screening process for refugees begins in the refugee camps run by the United Nations and from there moves to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
USCIS would not comment on Hasso's specific case, but the Department of Homeland Security can opt to remove a refugee if a criminal conviction occurs. But that rarely occurs, Corcoran said.
Refugee resettlement stirred some concern in Lowell this spring, when there were rumors of hundreds of Syrians streaming into the city. In fact, the stream has started with a trickle, perhaps because of the complaints.
Judge Stacey Fortes set Hasso's bail at $25,000 cash after Hasso pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent assault and battery on someone under 16. He was ordered to stay away from the alleged victim and the pool and is due back in court on July 29 for a pretrial conference. He had not posted bail as of Monday night, according to a spokesman for the Middlesex Sheriff's Department.