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Home | Tag Archives: syrian refugees

Tag Archives: syrian refugees

Feds to Abbott: No power to reject Syrian Refugees

The federal government is officially warning governors in states like Texas that they do not have the power to reject Syrian refugees.

In a letter dated Wednesday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement told state officials they would be breaking the law if they denied benefits or services to refugees contingent upon their country of origin or religious affiliation. States that defy the law could face suspension or termination of their refugee resettlement programs, according to the letter, which was signed by Robert Carey, director of the office.

Gov. Greg Abbott is one of more than two dozen mostly Republican governors who have voiced opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in their states. Their concerns were amplified following terrorist attacks earlier this month in Paris that have put Americans on edge about a similar threat in the United States.

Abbott has insisted he has the legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees, citing a specific part of federal law. His office declined to comment on the letter, but the state agency that oversees refugee resettlement in Texas said it will not change course.

“The Health and Human Services Commission will continue to follow the directive of Gov. Abbott, which calls for the State of Texas to not participate in the resettlement of Syrian refugees,” HHSC spokesman Bryan Black said in a statement.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement backing up Abbott for his “correct and courageous position” on the issue.

“Demands that Texas and other states must bow to the federal government and accept Syrian refugees is just another example of the arrogance and overreach of the Obama Administration,” Patrick said. “The risk to the safety and security of all citizens is outrageous.”

The letter was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

O’Rourke: Changing “American SAFE Act” unnecessary, counterproductive & threatens US security

My first and most important priority is the security and safety of the people of the United States. It is with this in mind that I have spent the last week reviewing our refugee screening protocols and meeting with federal law enforcement and intelligence community leadership responsible for protecting our country.

I have also sought the counsel of subject matter experts; listened to the questions asked and comments made by my colleagues; and read and listened to the thoughts and concerns of the people I represent.

All of this has convinced me that a proposed change to the current refugee screening process (H.R. 4038, aka the “American SAFE Act”) is not only unnecessary; it is counterproductive and will potentially undermine the security of this country.

The last two Secretaries of Homeland Security, including Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, say that “the process that is currently in place is thorough and robust and, so long as it is fully implemented and not diluted, it will allow us to safely admit the most vulnerable refugees while protecting the American people.” H.R. 4038 jeopardizes that goal.

Our process for reviewing refugee applications is rigorous and effective. It takes 18-24 months to review an application, and only a small minority of those who apply are accepted. Of the 23,000 Syrian refugees referred to the United States since 2011 by the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, only 7,000 made it to a second stage of our review process.

Of those, only 2,000 were admitted to the U.S. And those were the most vulnerable – the children, the old and the families fleeing brutality and torture. Only 2% of them were single males of working age.

The process proposed in today’s bill would create unnecessary, duplicative work and processes for U.S. security agencies. This would significantly delay the current rigorous process by up to 2 years, according to the Administration. In effect, it would close the door on refugees during the single greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.

In addition, FBI Director James Comey says this legislation is “counterproductive to national security.” And according to President Obama, this will undermine our coalition in Iraq and Syria and strengthen ISIS by demonstrating that the United States is not willing to accept screened Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

It plays into our enemy’s propaganda as it tarnishes the appeal of our historic ability to safely assimilate the oppressed and persecuted and seems to confirm their misrepresentation of our objectives in the Middle East (that we care nothing for the lives of those affected by this horrific violence). It also weakens our bonds with indispensable allies like Jordan (which has taken in 1.4 million Syrian refugees), Turkey (1.9 million refugees) and France (6,700 refugees so far, though after the Paris attacks President Hollande confirmed their commitment to accept 25,000 more).

Whether it is ensuring the safety of our families and communities, delivering on our national security objectives around the world or fulfilling our historic humanitarian mission to safely provide harbor for those in greatest need of the protection and help of the United States, I believe that the current refugee screening process is the best one to achieve our most important priorities.

Author: Congressman Beto O’Rourke

Refugee Nonprofits: Texas response is what ISIS would want

A day after about half of the country’s governors promised to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, religious and nonprofit leaders warned those governors that their actions could separate families and cause irreparable damage to public sentiment toward refugees.

“To close the door on resettling Syrian refugees would be nothing less than signing a death warrant for tens of thousands of families fleeing for their lives,” Linda Hartke, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said during a press call Tuesday. “If ISIS had hoped that their attacks in Paris would provoke the U.S. and its allies in reacting with small-minded panic, some governors are helping them get their wish.”

Following terrorist attacks in Paris that were linked with the Islamic State, Republican Gov.Greg Abbott announced on Monday that the state would not allow Syrian refugees to be resettled in Texas. Leaders of refugee resettlement nonprofits argued on Tuesday that the actions of Abbott and governors across the country could create challenges to reuniting families that were separated as they fled their home country or during the refugee screening process, particularly in Texas which has seen some of the highest numbers of Syrian refugees.

At least 141 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Texas in recent years. Though that number is relatively small for Texas — where thousands of refugees resettle each year — thenumber was expected to increase significantly in the next year as the U.S. prepares to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. In recent years, about 10 percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted into the country annually have wound up in Texas.

Refugee resettlement in the U.S. is completely funded by the federal government. The state’s responsibility in the process is to contract and oversee local nonprofit affiliates and distribute federal funding, according to state health officials.

It remains unclear what power governors have in halting refugee resettlement in their states. Refugee admissions are determined by the U.S. Department of State, which processes applications received through the United Nations and conducts security screenings. That process that can take up two years.

Once refugees are cleared by the State department, they are assigned to one of nine national refugee resettlement organizations that place individuals in communities across the country where local affiliates manage the resettlement process, including helping them find jobs, enroll their children in school and become fluent English speakers.

The state also provides health assistance to refugees through two programs. Under the Refugee Health Program, the state contracts with city and county health departments to provide refugees with initial health screening, vaccinations and referrals for any health conditions identified in that process. The Refugee Medical Assistance offers short-term health care to refugees not eligible for Medicaid. Both of those programs are also federally funded.

In a letter to President Barack Obama Monday, Abbott said he would direct the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program “to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas.”

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas,” Abbott wrote.

An Abbott spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for clarification on whether Abbott was directing HHSC to bar those nonprofits from using those funds specifically for Syrian refugees and whether this applied to the more than 100 Syrian refugees that were previously placed in the state. A spokesman for the State Department said Monday that federal lawyers were looking into whether states could bar refugee resettlement based on nationality.

Meanwhile, some state lawmakers are looking to the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for guidance. State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, on Tuesday asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on whether the state was required to “comply with restrictions on federal refugee dollars that are not found in the text of federal law” and whether there was a legal measure that prohibited the state from performing its own “security verifications” when distributing resettlement funds.

The refugee resettlement organizations on Tuesday reiterated that governors could not refuse Syrian refugees from entering their states, but they could back out of their role in the current resettlement process. The U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 allows the federal government to designate an entity other than state governments to serve as state refugee coordinators and disburse funding — a set-up in place in six states but not Texas, said Lavinia Limon, president & CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

But she added that governors and lawmakers were doing little for refugee relations as nonprofits work to place refugees in welcoming communities that will help them become self-sufficient and recover from the war-torn conditions they escaped.

“People are refugees because they are persecuted on the basis of race, religion membership in an ethnic group, nationality,” Limon said. “So to imagine getting admitted to the United States as refugees and then an elected official discriminates against you based on your nationality and ethnicity is pretty amazing.”

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

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