Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 15-11 legislation to reform the refugee program. The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 2826), introduced by Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), reforms the refugee program by curbing fraud and strengthening public safety and national security. It also provides state and local governments the power to decide if refugees are to be resettled within their communities and gives Congress, not the President, the authority to set the overall refugee ceiling for each year.
Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Labrador and Chairman Goodlatte issued the statements below on today’s Committee approval of the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act.
Subcommittee Chairman Labrador: “I am very pleased the committee approved my bill today. As Americans, we have a long tradition of helping refugees who, through no fault of their own, are fleeing war and persecution and wish to become contributing members of our society. However, our first priority when it comes to America’s refugee program is ensuring the safety and security of the American people. There are already documented cases of terrorists infiltrating the program, and with ISIS vowing to exploit it further, the time for congressional action is now.
“My bill modernizes America’s refugee program to keep pace with the security challenges of today’s world. It enacts stronger vetting of refugees, gives states and communities the power to decline resettlement, and lowers the annual refugee ceiling to the number recommended by President Trump. Overall, my bill will protect the integrity of the refugee program, reduce fraud, and improve national security.
“I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and my committee colleagues for approving it, and I look forward to getting it passed and signed into law.”
Chairman Goodlatte: “The United States has been a beacon of hope and has provided a safe home to millions of people seeking refuge from persecution in their home countries. The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act maintains our nation’s generosity toward those fleeing persecution in their homeland and also makes a number of critical reforms to the refugee program to ensure it works in Americans’ best interest. Notably, the bill enhances screening and establishes thorough vetting procedures to identify fraud and potential security risks. Administration officials have stated that roughly 300 people who came to the U.S. as refugees are under active investigation by the FBI for potential terrorism-related offenses. We have an obligation to the American people to beef up vetting procedures for those seeking to come here. I thank Representative Labrador for his work on this bill and urge the House to take it up soon.”
Key Components of the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act:
Places the refugee ceiling in Congress’ hands—not the President’s:
- The bill sets the refugee ceiling at 50,000 per year. It allows the President to recommend a revision of the ceiling number and Congress can choose to act on that recommendation.
- The bill prevents the President from admitting additional refugees without Congress’ approval.
Empowers state and local communities:
- Currently, states or localities that do not want refugees resettled within their communities have no recourse. The bill remedies this issue and prevents the resettlement of refugees in any state or locality that takes legislative or executive action disapproving resettlement within their jurisdiction.
Enhances integrity of refugee program and curbs fraud:
- It requires that when processing refugee applications from countries listed as “Countries of Particular Concern” in the annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, claims/applications that are based on religious persecution and are made by individuals who practice minority religions in such countries, are prioritized.
- The bill requires termination of refugee status if a resettled refugee returns to the country from which they fled, absent a change in country conditions.
- It requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to implement a fraudulent document detection program for refugee processing, including the placement of Fraud Detection and National Security officials at initial refugee screening locations, and the creation of a searchable database of scanned and categorized documents submitted by potential refugees at initial screening.
- It provides for regular security vetting of each admitted refugee until the refugee adjusts immigration status to lawful permanent resident.
- Within one year of the bill becoming law, all U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interviews, performed during USCIS circuit rides and done with the assistance of an interpreter, are to be recorded and DHS must review a random selection of 20% of the recordings to ensure that the interpreter correctly interpreted the interview. If an interpreter is found to have incorrectly interpreted the interview, the interpreter cannot serve as an interpreter for immigration purposes.
- The bill requires USCIS to review publicly available Internet postings, including social media, for each applicant.
Strengthens public safety and national security:
- The bill prevents the Secretary of DHS from unilaterally waiving most grounds of inadmissibility, including criminal convictions, for refugees.
- It also prevents the DHS Secretary from waiving most grounds of inadmissibility and deportability, including criminal grounds, for refugees attempting to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident.
- The bill requires the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (including the screening and processing procedures); the number of refugees who have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 2006; and the use of federally-funded benefit programs by refugees resettled in the United States.