New Jersey Withdraws from Federal Refugee Resettlement Program

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Gov. Chris Christie has withdrawn the state of New Jersey from participation in the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program, and Obama administration officials are working quickly to claim the federal government can continue to resettle refugees in the Garden State.

“Federal officials held a conference call Friday morning [April 22] with representatives of nonprofit groups who help refugees resettle in New Jersey, a process that will no longer have the participation of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration,” New Jersey 101.5 reported.

Earlier this week, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, announced that Kansas was also withdrawing from the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program.

The decisions by New Jersey and Kansas now bring the total of states who have withdrawn from the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program to fourteen.

The federal government currently operates the refugee resettlement program in twelve of those states through VOLAGs (voluntary agencies) under Department of Health and Human Services regulations that created the “Wilson-Fish alternative program.” Recently, the statutory authority of those regulations has come under question.

New Jersey may actually be slightly ahead of Kansas in withdrawing from the federal program. Their letter of withdrawal was sent to the Obama administration on April 7, while the Kansas letter of withdrawal was apparently sent during the week of April 25.

As New Jersey 101.5 reported:

Christie said last November that New Jersey would stop taking part in the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement program, and the state this month formalized that decision . . .

“The governor has consistently stated his opposition to the resettlement program in the absence of proper security vetting, safeguards and assurances being offered by the federal government,” said Christie spokesman Brian Murray.

Christie last November, at the time a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said following the ISIS attacks in Paris that New Jersey would withdraw from the program due to concerns that the background checks on refugees aren’t able to ensure terrorists won’t enter the country. . .

The state Department of Human Services notified the Obama administration that the Governor’s Office was withdrawing the state from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in an April 7 letter.

Technically, the state gave Washington 120 days’ notice that it is withdrawing, making the change effective in early August.

New Jersey joins a dozen other states where resettlement programs are managed by nonprofit organizations because the state does not participate: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont.

In the six months covering October through March, 127 refugees settled in New Jersey. Twenty-four were from Syria, second only to 36 from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Eighty-one Syrian refugees settled in New Jersey between October 2013 and September 2015.

The Tennessee General Assembly recently declared that Tennessee, one of the states that have withdrawn from the program, intends to sue the federal government on Tenth Amendment grounds to stop the resettlement of refugees in the state under the “Wilson-Fish alternative program.”

In light of President Obama’s recent unpopular decision to accelerate the vetting of Syrian refugees from two years to three months, along with serious security concerns about the possible infiltration of Syrian and other Muslim majority country refugees by Islamist terrorists, the decisions by Kansas and New Jersey to withdraw from the federal program, along with the Tennessee lawsuit, may indicate a growing momentum of opposition to these Obama administration refugee policies around the country.

Two important political and legal questions now arise.

Will any more of the 35 states that still participate in the federal refugee resettlement program decide to withdraw? (Wyoming is the only state that never joined the program subsquent to the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980 that established it.)

Will any more of the thirteen additional “Wilson-Fish alternative program” states that have withdrawn from the federal refugee resettlement program join Tennessee in its Tenth Amendment lawsuit against the federal government?


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