Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee’s hearing on “Oversight of U.S. Refugee Admission Program”.
Chairman Goodlatte: The United States has a generous refugee program and has provided millions of people fleeing persecution with safe haven. In FY 2016, we resettled 84,994 refugees and last fiscal year we resettled 53,716 refugees. And while we should continue that great tradition, it has become clear that our refugee laws and policies have been abused and that they need reform.
The Refugee Act of 1980 created our current refugee resettlement process in which the President sets the annual limit for the number of refugees the United States can resettle during the next fiscal year. And the act set forth who could be considered admissible as a refugee and how and when those refugees could adjust to lawful permanent resident status. In addition, the act put in place a process for the Federal Government to work through nongovernmental agencies to resettle refugees.
Thirty-seven years later, Members of Congress and the American public are voicing a growing number of concerns about how many, and the process through which, refugees are admitted to the United States, as well as what happens once they are admitted.
But the Federal Government has done little to respect those concerns. Under the previous Administration, when a State or locality expressed security concerns about refugee resettlement, the administration simply repeated the soundbite that refugees undergo the most rigorous background checks of any immigrant to the United States. That statement ignored the concerns of several security officials that, if there is no information regarding a potential refugee in the databases that are checked, then no derogatory information will show up during the check. And it ignored the fact that in many failed states from which refugees are admitted, there is no reliable information about refugees. We know that over 300 individuals being actively investigated for terrorist-related activity by the FBI came to the United States as refugees, and we know that at least 2 of the 10 successful terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 were perpetrated by individuals who entered the U.S. as refugees.
In addition to security concerns, if a State or locality expressed concerns about the costs of refugee resettlement or the lack of available employment opportunities, the prior administration did little in response. It was simply their view that, “The Federal Government has the right to resettle refugees all across America.” And while that may be true, it is not necessarily the best practice.
I know that many resettlement organizations do wonderful and necessary work, but essentially ignoring the pleas of communities across the U.S. and leaving refugee resettlement decisions to the administration, simply feeds opposition to refugee admissions on the whole.
I know that the Trump Administration has already addressed some of the concerns I have laid out today. For instance, I was happy to see that Executive Order 13780, signed on March 6, 2017, recognized the problem with lack of State and local consultation prior to resettlement, and asked the Secretary of State to devise a plan to promote State and local involvement in resettlement decisions.
And of course the same Executive Order required a review of refugee processing to determine what improvements could be made to the process, and then to implement those improvements.
So I look forward to hearing today how the Departments of Homeland Security, State, and Health and Human Services are working together to improve the entire U.S. Refugee Admissions Program – from referral to post-resettlement so that the program can remain a valuable and viable part of U.S. immigration policy.
I yield back the balance of my time.