Congress must press Obama Administration on Syrian refugee admission proposal; hold hearings
Posted by Ann Corcoran on September 13, 2015
Update: It appears the last time either Judiciary Committee held required hearings on the annual refugee consultation was in 1999 (here). If anyone can find a more recent hearing record, please send it. Why haven’t they been doing their jobs?
We’ve been aware for several years that the Administration each September must consult with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on the President’s refugee resettlement plan for the upcoming year which must lay out how many refugees we will take, from where they will come, and why this is in our national interest.
Reports I’ve received over the years are that the Committees responsible for “consulting” don’t change anything the President requests. I could be wrong, but at least in the 8 years I’ve followed the Refugee Admissions Program, the consultation and the required delivery of a lengthy report amounted to no more than State Department reps dropping off the report with committee staff. (I want to be corrected if there has been much more than that over the last decade!).
On Wednesday, Sec. of State John Kerry and Asst. Secretary of State Anne Richard made a trip to the Hill to meet with Senators Grassley and Sessions (others?) where they discussed the 10,000 (some reports say 5,000) Syrians for FY2016 proposal.
They are calling that meeting a “consultation.” Were Members of the House Judiciary Committee present as the law requires?
Opening the floodgates?
This is what the Office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley said after the meeting with Kerry. It appears that Kerry left the door open for a much larger number of Syrians than the 10,000 being mentioned by the Administration so far.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley made the following statement after a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration. The consultation regarding the number of refugees that the United States will admit into the country is required by law. In the event of an “emergency refugee situation” the administration may admit an additional number of refugees, but only after additional consultation with Congress.
“Secretary Kerry initially said that the Obama administration is seeking a reasonable increase in refugees allowed into the United States in the upcoming fiscal year. But when pressed, the administration indicated that they were considering opening the floodgates and using emergency authority to go above what they proposed to Congress in today’s consultation. The administration also has not ruled out potentially paroling thousands of Syrians into the United States.
Where is the hearing?
Below is a section of the Refugee Act of 1980 which lays out the process which should be happening right now regarding the “consultation” and subsequent final determination.
Calling any lawyers out there to help decipher it! But, as I see it, both House and Senate Judiciary Committees are required to hold hearings!
((It can be confusing because the text intermingles two processes. One is for the annual determination (where we are right now in mid-September) and the other is for an emergency situation that might come up during the year.))
This is the statute:
Here are the sections I’ve selected for your consideration. I doubt most of this ever happens!
“SEC. 207. (a)(1) Except as provided in subsection Q)), the number of
refugees who may be admitted under this section in fiscal year 1980,
1981, or 1982, may not exceed fifty thousand unless the President
determines, before the beginning of the fiscal year and after appropriate
consultation (as defined in subsection (e)), that admission of a
specific number of refugees in excess of such number is justified by
humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.
“(2) Except as provided in subsection (b), the number of refugees
who may be admitted under this section in any fiscal year after fiscal
year 1982 shall be such number as the President determines, before
the beginning of the fiscal year and after appropriate consultation, is
justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national
“(3) Admissions under this subsection shall be allocated among
refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States in
accordance with a determination made by the President after appropriate
“(d)(1) Before the start of each fiscal year the President shall report
to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives
and of the Senate regarding the foreseeable number of refugees who
will be in need of resettlement during the fiscal year and the
anticipated allocation of refugee admissions during the fiscal year.
The President shall provide for periodic discussions between designated
representatives of the President and members of such committees
regarding changes in the worldwide refugee situation, the
progress of refugee admissions, and the possible need for adjustments
in the allocation of admissions among refugees.
“(2) As soon as possible after representatives of the President
initiate appropriate consultation with respect to the number of
refugee admissions under subsection (a) or with respect to the
admission of refugees in response to an emergency refugee situation
under subsection (b), the (Committees on the Judiciary of the House of
Representatives and of the Senate shall cause to have printed in the
Congressional Record the substance of such consultation.
“(3)(A) After the President initiates appropriate consultation prior
to making a determination under subsection (a), a hearing to review
the proposed determination shall be held unless public disclosure of
the details of the proposal would jeopardize the lives or safety of individuals.
“(e) For purposes of this section, the term ‘appropriate consultation*
means, with respect to the admission of refugees and allocation
of refugee admissions, discussions in person by designated
Cabinet-level representatives of the President with members of the
Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and of the House of
Representatives to review the refugee situation or emergency refugee
situation, to project the extent of possible participation of the United
States therein, to discuss the reasons for believing that the proposed
admission of refugees is justified by humanitarian concerns or grave
humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest, and
to provide such members with the following information:
“(1) A description of the nature of the refugee situation.
“(2) A description of the number and allocation of the refugees
to be admitted and an analysis of conditions within the countries
from which they came.
“(3) A description of the proposed plans for their movement
and resettlement and the estimated cost of their movement and
“(4) An analysis of the anticipated social, economic, and
demographic impact of their admission to the United States.
“(5) A description of the extent to which other countries will
admit and assist in the resettlement of such refugees.
“(6) An analysis of the impact of the participation of the United
States in the resettlement of such refugees on the foreign policy
interests of the United States.
“(7) Such additional information as may be appropriate or
requested by such members.
To the extent possible, information described in this subsection shall
be provided at least two weeks in advance of discussions in person by
designated representatives of the President with such members.
Where is the report? Was it delivered two weeks ago?
What you can do!
Contact members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees (listed here) and tell them to hold PUBLIC hearings on the President’s plan!
It would be preferable to hold field hearings around the country in some of the largest resettlement locations in the country so that citizens who will be most affected by large numbers of Middle Eastern and African refugees could be heard. If those hearings hold up the official beginning of the resettlement year—October 1—so be it!
Note to Presidential candidates, this may be the most important issue America ever faces!
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