Fact Sheet: Syrian Refugee Resettlement

In the wake of the November 13 attacks on Paris, there is heightened concern that terrorists connected with ISIS will use the mass movement of refugees and economic migrants in the world to gain access to the United States. The United States currently maintains the most generous refugee program in the world. Typically, the State Department sets a goal of admitting half of the total refugees certified for placement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2013, the United States took 67 percent of all refugees.

The president is currently recommending expanding this already-generous program by increasing admissions of Syrian refugees from 1,500 to 10,000, with a total increase of 45,000 worldwide refugees over the next two years. Given the insufficient screening measures currently in place, conservatives should oppose funding for the administration’s increase in the number of refugees until Congress can pass legislation that guarantees an appropriate congressional role in ensuring stronger screening procedures.

Refugees and Asylees: According to U.S. immigration law, a refugee is a person who is 1) of special humanitarian concern to the United States, 2) fears persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, 3) has not firmly resettled in another country, and 4) is admissible to the United States. A further distinction must be drawn between asylees, who are already in the country in which they are seeking asylum, and refugees, who apply for permanent resettlement from a temporary resettlement location.

Asylum cases are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and there is no cap on the number of asylees that can be admitted to the United States. Refugees are usually out of the country from which they are fleeing, and are temporarily resettled in a short-term refugee camp (such as those in Jordan). This distinction ensures that those who need help the most are able to receive it.

The U.S. is already the number one country of resettlement for refugees in the world, resettling 66,200 of 98,400 total refugees in 2013. Before the beginning of each fiscal year, the President establishes an overall refugee admissions ceiling along with regional allocations. Once settled, refugees and asylees are given expedited access to legal permanent residency (LPR) and are put on a fast track to citizenship (which they can seek after four years as a LPR).

Difficult Vetting Procedures: It is extremely difficult to vet refugees from war-torn areas where there has been a complete breakdown of governmental control and authority. It is even harder in Arabic-speaking regions of the world, because of linguistic and cultural differences. Problems often begin with name identification, which is necessary to establish past history and determine whether members have been imprisoned or affiliated with any insurgency. These difficulties are compounded by how guarded Middle Eastern refugees are concerning motivations, which even the best regional experts have difficulty detecting. There is a history of failed assessments of Middle Eastern refugees, sometimes with grave consequences.

Additionally, many migrants currently entering Europe lack a legitimate claim for asylum. Many are economic migrants, seeking a better life for themselves and their families, but are not in danger of persecution. Many immigrants from poor, but otherwise stable countries, are currently claiming to be fleeing Syria, with a black market in Syrian passports booming. Given a systematic lack of documentation, distinguishing legitimate refuge-seeking from fraud can be difficult.

Due to this lack of documentation and inability to conduct name identification, FBI Director James Comey noted that the bureau does not currently have the ability to conduct thorough background checks on all refugee applicants. In his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, he stated “if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”

Furthermore, according to Steven Bucci and David Inserra of The Heritage Foundation, there is precedent for screening and background checks to give way to political imperatives in the processing of refugees. According to their backgrounder published in October 2015, “when the Administration implemented its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, it was not prepared for the workload and moved to a ‘lean and lite’ system of background checks, where cases were quickly approved even when lacking information or documents.”

Radicalization: In addition to the threat of radicals slipping through gaps in the system, there is also a threat of radicalization once refugees are present in the United States. The United States is already struggling to prevent the radicalization of current residents by ISIS propaganda, with Minnesota having launched anti-radicalization programs in response to a large number of Somali refugees joining ISIS. The Boston Marathon bombing was perpetrated by asylees who radicalized while present in the United States. According to a November 2014 report by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 13% of Syrian refugees have a view ISIS that is at least “positive to some extent,” with 4% having a “positive” view. Given ISIS’s history of effective propagandizing via social media, it is likely that they will be able to capitalize on some of these predilections.

Call to Action: When crafting refugee policy, the United States must ensure that humanitarianism is balanced by a prudent concern for national security. Congress is currently debating Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which contains significant deficiencies. Though it sets up a more stringent vetting system for Syrian refugees, it provides no leverage for Congress to weigh in and only requires that the vetting process be “certified” by the president’s appointees before allowing refugees to continue.  Congress should push for a thorough and transparent vetting process, and should deny funding to the president’s program until such a process is established. The December 11th appropriations deadline provides an opportunity for Congress to use a legislative rider defunding the president’s expansion, after which Congress may work with security experts to pass legislation establishing a screening process and mechanism for lawmakers to affirm the administration is implementing the new process correctly.

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Coming Soon: No Child Left Behind Reauthorization

According to reports, lawmakers have reached an agreement to reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law for four years.  In December 2014, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any NCLB overhaul:

  • enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind;
  • eliminate programs and reduce spending;
  • eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates; and,
  • provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.

Those reports, confirmed by “a GOP aide who participated in the negotiations,” suggest the pre-conferenced agreement falls short on each and every requirement.  Additionally, Education Week reports the House’s testing opt-out language – a priority for many conservative lawmakers – was abandoned:

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Conservatives Priorities for Omnibus Package

During the last week of October, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The bill abandoned conservative fiscal policy, choosing instead to suspend our nation’s debt limit until March 2017 (an estimated $1.5 trillion hike) and increase total federal spending by at least $111 billion over the next three years, blowing through the caps established by the Budget Control Act.

With this new spending framework established by the Bipartisan Budget Act, Congress will attempt to pass appropriations legislation to allocate these spending increases by December 11th. Unfortunately, congressional leadership is attempting to bundle 12 pieces of appropriations legislation together into one omnibus spending bill. Conservatives stand opposed to such a package. In addition to using the leverage of the appropriations process to restrain the executive and attain key conservative policy objectives (including provisions defunding Planned Parenthood and executive amnesty), the bill should only appropriate spending within the original budget cap levels.

Spend Within Budget Caps: The framework established by the Bipartisan Budget Act allows for an additional $111 billion is spending. But this framework passed with unified Democratic support, and a minority of Republicans. There is a reason that Congress is under a new leadership team, and appropriations legislation does not need to allocate spending at this heightened level. There is still an opportunity for Congress to exercise restraint and fiscal responsibilities, and only allocating spending at the levels authorized by the original budget caps. Such a policy would communicate to the American people that Congress intends to pursue responsible spending practices.

Defund Planned Parenthood: In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of undercover videos documenting Planned Parenthood executives haggling over fetal body parts, as well as describing the use of the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure to secure intact organs. These atrocities are currently funded by the government of the United States, which supplied Planned Parenthood with 41% of its total revenue last year ($528 million). This has led Planned Parenthood to become the largest abortion provider in the country, performing over 327,000 abortions last year (1 of every 3 abortions performed in the United States). This all occurred while federal law prevents the use of federal dollars in performing abortions – a provision circumvented by Planned Parenthood’s creative accounting and the fungibility of federal dollars.

A legislative rider defunding Planned Parenthood by name is necessary to effectively shut off federal funds to the organization, as it would both remove Title X funding and prohibit Medicaid funds from being awarded under the “choose your own provider” provision. 151 Republicans voted against a two month continuing resolution that funded Planned Parenthood. Those members need to be encouraged to maintain their positions against a spending bill that funds Planned Parenthood in December.

Defund Executive Amnesty: The clearest example of the president’s overstep of his executive powers through the illegal use of executive orders can be found in his executive amnesty program. It is the responsibility of members of Congress to craft laws governing United States immigration policy, and the role of the executive to implement those laws. By unilaterally implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, and by widely expanding the program in 2014 (DAPA), the president ignored the constitutional separation of powers and took the legislative powers of Congress upon himself.

Twenty-six states filed suit, claiming an abuse of executive power, and the Fifth Circuit upheld an injunction against the program earlier this year. But a leaked memo indicates that the administration is planning on circumventing the court’s injunction and issuing several hundred thousand additional worker visas. In light of this administration’s repeated abuses of executive power, the bill should contain a provision defunding the executive amnesty program.

Refugee Resettlement: The United States currently maintains the most generous refugee program in the world. But the President has proposed expanding this program by increasing the number of refugees to 45,000 by the end of 2016. This influx of refugees presents a series of national security concerns, which the current administration has been negligent in addressing. Due to significant linguistic and cultural differences, lack of documentation, and the opacity of refugees concerning motivations, it is incredibly difficult to effectively screen refugees. This problem is compounded by widespread fraud and a significant risk of refugees being targeted for recruitment by terror groups while present in their country of resettlement. The Obama administration has consistently demonstrated its unwillingness to establish systems for effectively screening refugees, with grave implications on national security.

Congress should push for a thorough and transparent vetting process, and should deny funding to the president’s program until such a process is established. The December 11th appropriations deadline provides an opportunity for Congress to use a legislative rider defunding the president’s expansion, after which Congress may work with security experts to pass legislation establishing a thorough screening process, and a mechanism for lawmakers to affirm the administration is implementing the new process correctly.

Conclusion: The power of the purse is a constitutionally-established power of Congress, and appropriations legislation provides the clearest opportunity for its use. These are not the only conservative policies that can be pursued during the appropriations process, but they are critical ones. Current members of Congress were elected with a clear mandate to pursue conservative policies and spending reforms, and should not abandon the fight on key points of leverage.

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Defunding Planned Parenthood: Claim and Response

Abortion giant Planned Parenthood has been a recipient of federal dollars under Title X of the Public Health Service Act and via Medicaid reimbursements, among other sources. Last reporting year, Planned Parenthood received $528 million in taxpayer dollars – 41% of its total revenue – a significant portion of which comes from these federal government programs.

In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of undercover videos documenting leading Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price of fetal body parts, as well as describing the use of the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure to secure intact organs. These videos have galvanized the conservative movement to demand that Congress finally defund Planned Parenthood.

But on September 30th, 2015, the House voted 277-151 to pass a so-called “clean” two-month continuing resolution (CR) that preserved federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This CR sets a new deadline for December 11, providing another opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood through the appropriations process.

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Stop the Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import Bank expired on June 30th, over 100 days ago. . This was a major policy victory for conservatives looking to roll back corporate welfare and stop Washington from picking winners and losers in the economy.

However, as Ronald Reagan once said “The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.” The Export-Import Bank’s supporters are trying to resurrect this now defunct government agency.

As Washington continues to play politics with the bank, here are 10 facts you should remember about the Export-Import Bank.

Top Ten Ex-Im Facts

  1. Boeing, GE, and Caterpillar received 87% of Ex-Im loan guarantees in FY13.
  2. The Ex-Im Bank provided export financing for just 0.009 percent of America’s small businesses.
  3. The vast majority of exporters—98 percent—never received assistance from the Ex-Im Bank.
  4. Export financing didn’t create new jobs, but merely redistributed jobs across America’s economy.
  5. Among the top 10 buyers of Ex-Im exports, 5 were state-controlled and raked in millions of dollars from their own governments in addition to Ex-Im Bank subsidies.
  6. There are 31 open corruption and fraud investigations into the bank.
  7. The top beneficiaries of Ex-Im also had massive backlogs of orders, meaning jobs were not immediately lost when the bank expires.
  8. Ex-Im subsidies benefited China, Venezuela, Cuba, and Russia. State-owned foreign airlines have received $16 billion in subsidized financing since 2009.
  9. Taxpayers were on the hook for nearly $140 billion in the Ex-Im loan portfolio.
  10. The companies advocating for the reauthorization of Ex-Im have admitted they do NOT actually need it.

Don’t let the Export-Import come back from the dead.

Join us in the fight to #EndExIm by emailing your Representatives and urge them to oppose reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

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