Obama Administration to Oakland County, Michigan: No, We Won’t Comply with Refugee Law

Syrian_refugees Alexander ZemlianichenkoAP
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Robert Carey, the Obama administration’s director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), recently told Oakland County, Michigan that the agency he directs has no intention of complying with the Refugee Act of 1980‘s requirement that it “consult regularly …with local governments concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.”

In a letter to Carey dated June 17, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson wrote:

It has come to my attention that between October 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016, 1,860 refugees have been placed in the State of Michigan…Of those 1,860 refugees estimates are that hundreds of them have been resettled in Oakland County. Oakland County has not been consulted with respect to the placement of refugees in our jurisdiction. Exact numbers of refugees placed in Oakland County are not readily available as the federal government is not performing its statutory duty to consult with local governments as discussed below.

Patterson then “request[ed] and demanded that the Office of Refugee Resettlement . . . [1.] provide Oakland County with all pertinent information regarding all refugees settled in Oakland County in the past two years [and] . . .  [2.] begin consulting with us quarterly as required by federal law concerning refugees to be resettled in the county in the future.”

Carey’s response to Patterson’s demand was condescending and dismissive:

Concerning your request about consultation, Michigan submitted a State Plan for fiscal year 2016 describing resettlement activities in the state. In the State Plan, Michigan stated that consultation meetings would be convened on at least a quarterly basis with representatives of local affiliates of resettlement agencies, state and local government agencies, and other community-based organizations that serve refugees. These meetings are held in each of the three resettlement regions in Michigan. Additionally, the Michigan Refugee Advisory Council facilitates coordination among resettlement partners across the state. I encourage you to work with state officials to ensure you are included in these consultation meetings in the future. ORR, in turn, works through the State Refugee Coordinator and its regional representatives to maintain open communications with the state.

Carey places the burden for finding out about these “consultation” meetings and attending them on Oakland County. The Refugee Act of 1980,  however, requires both the director of ORR and “the federal agency administering the program,” which could mean an employee of ORR,  to consult with the locality prior to the placement of refugees there. The statute does not include any provision to accomplish this consultation through the State Refugee Coordinator, who actually is an employee of the state government, not a representative of the federal bureaucracy.

Carey also dismissed Oakland County’s demand to obtain “all pertinent information regarding all refugees settled in Oakland County in the past two years.”:

You requested “pertinent information regarding all refugees settled in Oakland County in the past two years” and ORR does not share personally identifiable information about refugees. Therefore, we cannot fulfill your request.

The Refugee Act of 1980, however, specifically requires that all public health problems associated with specific refugees be reported to county officials. As Breitbart reported:

[R]efugee resettlement agencies are required by the Refugee Act of 1980 to assure “that refugees, known to the agency as having been identified . . . as having medical conditions affecting the public health and requiring treatment [such as active and latent TB], report to the appropriate county or other health agency,” and that their health status is subsequently monitored by both the county or other health agencies.

When county, state, or other health agencies have this data which can have an impact on public health in their possession but conceal it from the public, the most common justification provided by the governmental entities and resettlement agencies is that providing data on the entire refugee population in a specific area would be a violation of HIPAA laws and regulations that govern individual health privacy.

Oakland County, Michigan is an affluent suburban Detroit county with a population of 1.2 million.

As Breitbart reported previously, 360 Syrian refugees were resettled in Oakland County during the first eleven months of Fiscal Year 2016, more than the number resettled in forty states.

Two states, Alabama and Texas, have undertaken litigation to compel the Office of Refugee Resettlement to comply with the consultation clause of the Refugee Act of 1980. The Texas case was dismissed by a federal district court. Alabama lost in federal district court and is currently appealing the decision.


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