Washington, D.C.  – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 18-9 the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 4731). This bill, authored by Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Vice Chairman Raul 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.

Below are statements from the authors of the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act on today’s Committee approval of the bill.

Congressman Labrador: “I’m pleased the committee passed our common-sense bill to modernize the refugee program. By asserting congressional authority to determine how many refugees enter the U.S., empowering states and localities and combatting fraud, we’re taking a major step to restore public confidence in the humanitarian mission of helping refugees in need.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The United States has a generous refugee program that provides people fleeing persecution with a safe haven. Americans are kind and compassionate towards those in need, but we cannot allow our nation’s refugee program to be exploited by fraudsters and those wishing to do us harm. It’s clear that reforms are needed so that the program works in the best interest of Americans and ensures that the program is made available only to those who are being persecuted.

“The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, approved by the House Judiciary Committee today, makes meaningful reforms to the refugee program to curb fraud, strengthen national security and public safety, and restore integrity to the program. The bill sets the annual refugee resettlement ceiling so that the People’s duly elected representatives in Congress, not the President, decide what that number should be. It also empowers state and local governments to decide whether or not refugee resettlement is best for their communities. I am pleased the Committee approved this legislation and I 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 60,000 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, 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 open source 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.