A leaked White House proposal to move key parts of the federal refugee bureaucracy from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security is ruffling the feathers of CNN, a former Obama State Department official, and other Obama era bureaucrats still embedded in the Deep State.
“The White House is considering a proposal to move both the State Department bureau of Consular Affairs and its bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to the Department of Homeland Security, a senior White House official tells CNN,” CNN reported on Wednesday in an article written by Jake Tapper, Ethan Cohen, and Justin Blackover.
CNN notes that Deep State opponents of the Trump administration still within the top levels of the federal government do not like the idea.
“The move, which the White House official cautioned was far from becoming official policy, would likely be controversial among diplomats and experts in State Department matters,” CNN reported.
Though CNN did not cite the current State Department “diplomats and experts” who would find the proposal “controversial,” it did reach out to a former State Department employee who famously championed President Barack Obama’s pro-refugee agenda to criticize the proposal:
“It would be a huge mistake,” said Anne Richard, who led the bureau of Population Refugees, and Migration during President Barack Obama’s second term.
The proposals were written in a memo submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget from the White House Domestic Policy Council as part of President Trump’s March executive order pushing for ideas for Government Reorganization.
Under the terms of the Refugee Act of 1980, the initial processing and vetting of refugee applicants currently begins at the State Department and then is handed off to the Department of Homeland Security for final approval of each applicant.
The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) within the State Department reviews refugee applicants submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR). These initial reviews, which are cursory at best, take place at International Resettlement Support Centers operated around the world by the UNHCR.
PRM then sends the refugee applicants it approves to the USCIS in the Department of Homeland Security, which gives refugee applicants the final stamp of approval for entry into the United States through the federal refugee resettlement program.
As Breitbart News has reported extensively in the past, both PRM and the Refugee International Operations Directorate within DHS’s USCIS continue to be staffed at the highest level by Obama holdovers who are actively opposed to implementing President Trump’s refugee policies.
CNN quoted an unnamed “senior White House official”:
[Who] cautioned that the proposal was far from becoming policy, telling CNN that the idea of moving the longstanding State Department bureaus to the Department of Homeland Security is ‘one among many in a document resulting from a brainstorming session focused on improving efficiencies across government. None has been reviewed in great depth, let alone formally approved.’ The official added that the memo “was a first step in exploring all options to make the government work better. No doubt many of the ideas will end up on the cutting-room floor, while others will ultimately may be adopted.’
CNN chose to include numerous quotes from a prominent former Obama State Department official critical of the proposal in its story, rather than ask critics of the federal refugee resettlement program for their views:
Richard, the former Obama State Department official, pinned the proposal on an “imperfect understanding” of the bureau’s function. It’s not mainly a law enforcement body, Richard said, rather, it works with nongovernmental organizations and the UN to assist refugees around the world.
While the refugee resettlement program does fall under the bureau, Richard noted that DHS plays a role in vetting potential refugees before they come to the United States. She said it would be a mistake for the government to neglect initiatives like the bureau she used to lead over what she called a “real but small” risk related to fighting terrorism.
“We could be a lot smarter than this and the administration could be focused on facts and evidence,” Richard said. “But instead the administration is making decisions based on people’s fears.”
An attorney familiar with the federal refugee resettlement program has a very different view of the merits of the proposal. The attorney tells Breitbart News:
The foreign policy and humanitarian objectives of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program are typically allowed to dominate the program’s implications for national security. Add to this, that the revolving door operating between PRM bureaucrats and the VOLAGs with whom they contract, has all but eliminated transparency and accountability in the program.
What has evolved, is an enclave of industry insiders who have determined that the only “stakeholders” in the program are either refugees themselves, or the employees of the government agencies and VOLAGs that are paid to facilitate resettlement.
VOLAG monitoring reports are virtually unavailable for public review unless you get lucky and some years after you file your FOIA with the State Department you receive what are then outdated documents.
Moving PRM to the Department of Homeland Security is logical if for no other reason than that DHS has a much closer interface with state governments which are being compelled to help pay for the refugee resettlement program. Unless and until state governments are relieved from being forced to accept initial resettlement of refugees, they should, at the very least, be afforded more direct access to where admission decisions are made.
One critic of the federal refugee resettlement program who has not weighed in on the merits of the proposed move was highly critical of how CNN reported on it.
“The Obama shadow government, in this case Anne Richard, former Asst. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration has a pipeline in to the career bureaucrats running the refugee program in the Department of State and she is carrying their news to the likes of CNN,” Ann Corcoran wrote Thursday at Refugee Resettlement Watch. She went on:
The primary reason that the Deep State would not support the move of the program to the Dept. of Homeland Security is that they (in State) have a decades-long cushy relationship with the refugee contractors that I keep yelling about (here and here just this morning).
They are all on the same page—more, more, more refugees for America!
First, get the contractors (yelling and propagandizing) out of the system completely and reform of the program could be accomplished. (This depends on the lazy lunks in Congress!)
And, second, Trump must get his loyalists placed in positions above the bureaucrats to get this under control.
One reform proposal is currently under consideration in the House of Representatives.
Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have introduced the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 2826), whose provisions are consistent with the reported White House memo advocating the move of PRM to DHS from State.
According to a joint statement released by Labrador and Goodlatte at the time the bill was introduced earlier this month:
The bill 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.
Several key elements of the bill, which “cleared the House Judiciary Committee [Wednesday] morning on a 15-11 party-line vote” deal with enhancing DHS’s role in the vetting process:
• 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.
• 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.
Taken as a package, the leaked White House proposal to move the refugee bureaucracy currently housed in the State Department to DHS, and the good prospects for the passage of the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act in the full House, are an indication that the Trump administration’s promises to tighten the vetting of refugees admitted to the United States continues to gain traction.