In one of his last major actions as leader of the country, President Obama has “fast-tracked” the admittance of 2,465 refugees from Muslim nations including many terrorist hotspots listed by the U.S. State Department, such as Iran, Syria and Sudan.
Not only has Obama raised the ire of Congressional Republicans with this provocative act, but the government has also made the details of the transfer classified, which has drawn the attention of numerous members of Congress as well as journalists. The transfer is part of a deal with Australia, which didn’t want to admit these same migrants to its own shores.
The refugees are now being held on the South Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea as part of Australia’s migrant detention program, which doesn’t allow those seeking residency — even under critical asylum status — to live temporarily within the country’s borders.
Instead, Australia pays neighboring island states to house those seeking to become citizens. Australian residency applications can take years to be processed, and migrants have been known to engage in acts of violence or even self-harm while they await word of their fate.
Sudan, Syria and Iran are not the only nations these transitory people hail from. Others include Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq — all considered hotbeds of Jihadi recruitment. In addition, many of the refugees are listed as “stateless,” meaning they could be from anywhere originally.
“These could be Burmese Muslims, who have posed assimilation issues for every nation which has taken them,” said Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). “It’s a dangerous precedent which says, ‘[The U.S.] will take any ethnic group with which [the citizens of other nations] don’t get along.'” Currently, the U.S. accepts refugees from Malta who are originally from other lands such as Libya or Somalia.
The Obama administration has admitted it’s been influenced by desires of the United Nations to settle migrants and asylum seekers. “The United States has agreed to consider referrals from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of refugees now residing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea,” read a statement released by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.
“These refugees are of special interest to the UNHCR, and we’re engaged on a humanitarian basis, as we are in other parts of the world.”
The Obama administration increased the number of refugees it will admit to the U.S. from 85,000 to 110,000 this year. There’s some speculation that Obama agreed to “trade” more acceptable Central American refugees for the rejected Australian migrants in a special deal with Australia’s government.
In a recent agreement with Costa Rica, the U.S. set up a new program catering to those migrants who wished to apply for political asylum. Under new rules, single mothers automatically qualify because they’re deemed “heads of households” who are “vulnerable to crime.”
The UN has estimated this program alone will receive 146,000 applications this year. In order to qualify for political asylum, refugees merely have to say they have “well-founded fears” of being persecuted based on their politics, race, nationality or religion.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia want to know why the Australian deal is classified. In a letter to the Obama administration, they said, “This situation is concerning for many reasons; your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress… The individuals who will be resettled are coming from countries of national security concern. In fact, two of the countries are officially designated by the State Department to be State Sponsors of Terrorism. [This] deal is not only a matter of grave national security concern, but it could also be illegal.”
The classified status of the agreement allows the Obama administration to hide the timing, costs and any benefits (or detriments) to the U.S. of the resettlement.
Some in the Obama administration have tried to claim this is a one-time deal, but CIS’ Barnett believes that’s an excuse to mollify the public. “This is a backroom deal, wheeling and dealing with another country’s refugee problem,” he said.
“I don’t believe for a moment it’s a one-time deal. That’s for public consumption. Traditionally, the details of all refugee resettlement deals are completely transparent… If [these refugees] have been vetted and deemed inadmissible [in Australia], [under American laws] the U.S. can’t say, ‘You don’t want them, so we’ll take them.'”
It’s been pointed out that Australia has specific policies in place to reject UN recommendations on refugees. Furthermore, there’s some evidence to support that Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson signed off on the agreement even before they knew the national origins of the migrants or their sexes, ages and other pertinent information; even the status of their health may not have been a factor in the deal.
Clearly, even in Obama’s last months in office, he’s decided to extend and push forward unpopular policies and programs. This action is proof that Obama is determined to leave a legacy that may or may not give the U.S. cause to regret in the future. If just one of these migrants turns out to be a terrorist or commits acts of violence, unfortunate Americans may pay for this president’s bad decision-making with their lives.