Trump Budget Includes ‘Significant Funding of . . . Refugee Program’

President Donald Trump takes the cap off a pen before signing executive order for immigration actions to build border wall during a visit to the Homeland Security Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The blueprint for the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget released on Thursday “allows for significant funding of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, disaster, and refugee program funding” in the State Department.

“This would focus funding on the highest priority areas while asking the rest of the world to pay their fair share,” the blueprint states.

“Taken together with the executive order, it looks like the president will keep the refugee program with a lower annual number, like the 50,000 limit specified in Executive Order 13780, and when the annual determination is released, identify countries of concern in a way that excludes Somalia, and other countries of concern that are known to harbor terrorists,” a source familiar with the federal refugee resettlement program tells Breitbart News.

“As long as he keeps the refugee program going, we are going to get more people from countries related to real security issues and regardless, the program needs to be legislatively reformed and regulations that have caused Constitutional violations repealed before restarting in FY 2018,” the source adds.

The language of the blueprint, however, could be interpreted to suggest that the Trump administration’s “significant funding of . . . [the] refugee program” defines the program broadly to include safe zones in other parts of the world in addition to the federal refugee resettlement program. As such, a further reduction of refugees resettled in the United States in FY 2018 could be entirely possible.

President Trump supported the establishment of safe zones for refugees during the campaign.

Typically, the president releases an annual determination of the number of refugees to be allowed into the country in the month preceding the start of a new fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

Under the Refugee Act of 1980, that number is determined at the sole discretion of the president.

Subsequent to the president’s determination of that number, Congress has traditionally funded the refugee resettlement program at the level set by the president for the coming fiscal year.

FY 2017 has proceeded differently.

In September, President Obama announced a determination that he wanted Congress to fund the arrival of 110,000 refugees in the United States in FY 2017, an increase from 84,995 that arrived in FY 2016. Congress, caught up in an election year in which the number of refugees to be resettled, as well as their vetting and countries of origin, were key issues in the Presidential campaign, did not pass a budget for the full fiscal year prior to the beginning of FY 2017.

Instead, Congress passed a temporary continuing resolution that extended the FY 2016 budget through the first ten weeks of FY 2017, then renewed an additional continuing resolution in December that runs out at the end of April.

That budget funds refugee resettlement at the FY 2016 level of 84,995 annually for a little more than a month more. Come April 28, there will be no budget authority for any discretionary budget activities–including refugee resettlement–unless Congress passes funding authority for the balance of FY 2017.

Given the contentious current political environment of Washington, it is uncertain whether Congress will have such funding authority in place prior to that date.

During the three months and 20 days of FY 2017, the final days of the Obama administration, 30,122 refugees were resettled in the United States, which corresponds to an annualized rate of 83,292.

In the subsequent 55 days since the start of the Trump administration, 7,989 refugees have been resettled in the United States, which corresponds to an annualized rate of 53,018.

To date, 38,111 refugees have been resettled in the United States, which would leave room for a maximum of 11,899 over the remaining six months and fourteen days of FY 2017, under President Trump’s 50,000 level set in Executive Order 13769 signed on January 27, then set again in Executive Order 13780 signed on March 6.

On Wednesday, 9th Circuit Court Federal District Judge Derrick Watson, an Obama appointee and 1991 Harvard Law School classmate of the former president, struck down Executive Order 13780 hours before it was scheduled for implementation. He based his 43-page decision, issued just two hours after the hearing was concluded, on campaign statements made by President Trump prior to his election and a leaked “draft document” from the office of a Department of Homeland Security Obama holdover whom Breitbart News had identified as one of eight top Department of Homeland Security Obama holdovers President Trump could “fire or remove.”

In striking down Section 6, the portion of Executive Order 13780 in which President Trump limited the number of refugees to 50,000 annually, Judge Watson–for one of the first times in American history–asserted the supremacy of the judicial branch over the legislative and executive branches. Not even Judge James Robart, who stopped the first executive order of the same title (Executive Order 13769), went that far in his usurpations.

Robart notably excluded Section 5 d of Executive Order 13769, in which President Trump limited the number of refugees in FY 2017 to 50,000, from his temporary restraining order.

Also on Wednesday, 4th Circuit Court Federal District Judge Theodore Chuang, another Harvard Law School graduate Obama appointee and former bureaucrat in the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, issued a similar ruling.

Though Chuang did not strike down President Trump’s statutory and Constitutional authority to limit the number of refugees on Wednesday, he did schedule a March 29 hearing  on plaintiffs motion to enjoin the “specific provision of the First Executive Order [Section 5 d of Executive Order 13679]” in which the president set the annual refugee limit for FY 2017 at 50,000.

“The Court will resolve that Motion, which the parties have agreed should be construed to apply to the successor provision of the Second Executive Order [13780] , in accordance with the previously established schedule,” Chuang wrote in his decision.

HIAS, one of the nine major voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) paid more than $1 billion annually by the federal government to resettle refugees, is one of the plaintiffs in the Maryland case.

HIAS hopes to persuade Judge Chuang to double the number of refugees to 100,000 in FY 2017.

Should he rule in favor of HIAS on March 28, Chuang will accelerate the pending Constitutional crisis that may be set off by Judge Watson’s decision, as respected attorney Paul Mirengoff wrote at Powerline Blog and Rush Limbaugh suggested in his nationally syndicated radio program.

As to the number refugees who will be resettled in the United States during the balance of FY 2017, President Trump may take a page from President Andrew Jackson, whose tomb he honored during his visit to Nashville on Wednesday.

“John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it,” President Jackson said of an 1832 Supreme Court decision unfavorable to his policies issued by the Marshall Court.

President Trump’s attitude to the unfavorable decision issued by Judge Watson regarding a president’s Constitutional and statutory authority to limit the number of refugees arriving in the United States, a decision Judge Chuang may agree with on March 28,  may well be something like this:

“Judge Watson has made his decision; now let him pay for it.”


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