Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions is going after a top immigration official who earlier admitted the U.S. government has invited future terrorists into American communities, the Obama administration’s much-touted “vetting process” aside.
“The fact is—anybody that understands the challenge they face to do this vetting. You cannot vet people from Syria, because there’s no way, and we have no plans to send anybody into Syria to verify anything that they say,” Sessions told León Rodríguez during his testimony before a Senate panel.
“That’s the problem, fundamentally,” the Republican continued. “Are you not aware that I have written four letters to the Department, asking for information on how many refugees have been convicted of criminal and terrorist activities?”
Rodríguez, who directs citizenship and immigration Services for the Department of Homeland Security, said he wasn’t. “I confess Chairman, I am not. I will certainly make sure to follow up on those correspondence—”
“This is absolutely breathtaking,” Sessions cut in. “It is a total disrespect to this body, who is in charge of giving you money to run your business. We should quit giving you money if you don’t respond and you don’t know basic things.”
Sessions, who who chairs the Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, listed the letters he sent to the Department of Homeland Security, along with one sent directly to the president demanding to know how many refugees were convicted on criminal or terrorism charges in the U.S. “So do you think we’re entitled to know this?” he asked.
“I will—of course you’re entitled to answers to your questions. I will follow up, sir,” Rodríguez said.
“Well, to me, it indicates the determination to promote an agenda without listening to the American people, without listening to their elected representatives, and to downplay and to misrepresent, really, the danger that this program presents,” Sessions said. “And we’re not having terrorists from a lot of areas, but some areas we’re having terrorists that threaten this country in a whole lot of ways.”
Sessions added that he had sent the letters to Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson, and would take it as an “absolute refusal” to respond to legitimate requests to Congress if no one in the department brought them to Johnson’s or Rodríguez’s attention.
Rodríguez also tried to clarify “our operations are fee-funded, not tax-funded. They’re not funded by the taxpayers.”
“So you’re not funded by the taxpayers. And so you don’t have any responsibility to the taxpayers?” the Alabama senator asked.
“No, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers,” Rodríguez backtracked, “and the American people to do our job the right way. That’s not the point I was making.”
“You don’t get any fees that Congress hasn’t authorized, isn’t that true?” Sessions asked.
“That’s certainly true,” Rodríguez admitted.
Sessions’ office found in June that of the 580 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2014—which does not include the terrorist Muslims who carried the 9/11 attacks—380 were foreign-born, with 24 of those brought in as refugees.
Adding to the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration scandals, an audit revealed over 1,811 aliens from terrorist countries under final deportation orders were granted U.S. citizenship—giving them the right to vote and gain security clearances—with the Obama administration shutting down the program that uncovered the rampant fraud.
Another Obama administration official refused to say how many Syrian refugees specifically the government plans to ship to American neighborhoods. The outgoing Obama administration wants to ship 110,000 refugees altogether to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1.