Is Congress shirking its duty to America on refugee admissions? Yes, and has done so for more than 2 decades!
Posted by Ann Corcoran on September 14, 2015
Former Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (December 1979):
“…there is no substitute for public scrutiny, public disclosure, public debate on an issue of such importance
as the admission of refugees to the United States.”
As far as we know, only Senator Grassley (Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) has put out any statement about the Refugee “consultation” required by law that occurred on the Senate side of the Capitol last Wednesday. Grassley’s statement is here.
***Update*** More here from Senator Grassley.
Where were the House Members, and why haven’t we heard from them yet? Where was Chairman Goodlatte and Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy?
Some speculate that they have been told to stay quiet, don’t make a fuss until the Pope has come and gone! (Boehner again?)
Now, that is just speculation and if someone presents me with some facts about the House Judiciary position on the 10,000 Syrians (or more!) for FY2016 proposal by the President, let me know. I do see this morning that Rep. Michael McCaul (Homeland Security Chairman) is blasting the number, but he is not on the committee responsible for addressing the Presidential Determination!
The Refugee Act of 1980 has a very specific time line for the President’s annual proposal for refugee admissions and the law calls for hearings now (here yesterday). And, where is the report that is supposed to precede the consultation by two weeks?
I say if there are no public hearings, FY2016 admissions should be halted when the new fiscal year begins on October 1.
Has Congress been shirking its duty for decades?
Sure looks like it! Because of the proposals to bring in as many as 100,000 Syrians in the next 12 months, there must be hearings! Come on Trey Gowdy! Come on Bob Goodlatte! Where are you?
History tells us that the House (and the Senate) have been shirking their duties under the Refugee Act of 1980 for twenty years!
Take a trip down memory lane to the House debate on the ‘Immigration in the National Interest Act of 1995’ (HR2202) spearheaded by Rep. Lamar Smith and see what was said about the “consultation” process and how it has been ignored to America’s great detriment.
From House Report 104-469 (hat tip: Richard Falknor at Blue Ridge Forum). Report is dated March 4, 1996. Former Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman who was involved with the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, as chairman of he immigration subcommittee, is quoted as confirming the importance of the consultation process and Congress’ role!
The Refugee Act of 1980 intended to provide Congress with a
meaningful role in the process of determining refugee
admissions. In the words of former Representative Elizabeth
Holtzman, then Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration,
Refugees and International Law, ``Importantly, for the first
time, the bill requires that Congress be consulted before
refugees are admitted, and spells out in detail the elements of
that consultation.” 55 Additionally, the Report of the
House Committee on the Judiciary regarding the Refugee Act of
1980 stated the following:
\55\ 125 Cong. Rec. H11966, H1167 (daily ed. Dec. 13, 1979)
(statement of Rep. Holtzman).
The Committee has made every effort to assure that
Congress has a proper and substantial role in all
decisions on refugee admissions. In the past, the
Attorney General’s consultation with this committee
regarding admissions has been merely a matter of
courtesy or custom. * * * The Committee cannot
overemphasize the importance it attaches to
consultation. The Congress is charged under the
Constitution with the responsibility for the regulation
of immigration, and this responsibility continues with
respect to refugee admissions.56
\56\ House Report 96-608 at 12-14 (1979).
In the past several years, the refugee consultation process
has devolved into a single meeting between the Executive Branch
and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees near the end of
the fiscal year–the very type of process which the 1980 Act
expressly rejected. As an example, the refugee consultation for
fiscal year 1996 occurred in the middle of September 1995–two
weeks prior to the beginning of fiscal year 1996. The failure
of the Administration to consult with Congress on the number
and allocation of refugee admissions until just prior to the
beginning of the fiscal year meant that the series of
discussions between the President and Congress called for in
section 207(d)(1) of the INA did not take place. [This is exactly what is happening right now!—ed]
The current process of determining refugee admissions does
not provide Congress with a meaningful role in this process, as
intended in the Refugee Act of 1980. The number of refugee
admissions for a particular fiscal year should not be set
unilaterally by the President. As former Chairwoman Holtzman
stated: “* * * there is no substitute for public scrutiny,
public disclosure, public debate on an issue of such importance
as the admission of refugees to the United States.” 57
The only way to have an adequate public debate on the issue of
refugees is to give Congress a more meaningful role in
determining number and allocation of refugee admissions.
\57\ 125 Cong. Rec. H37203 (daily ed. Dec. 20, 1979).
So in conclusion, as the Refugee Act of 1980 intended, Congress is required to have a “meaningful” role in establishing refugee policy for the coming year and that includes a PUBLIC hearing!
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?
It seems that, just like everything else these days, this Republican Congress isn’t standing up for itself or for the American people! Just a bunch of chickens!
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