We too were surprised when Secretary of State Pompeo announced a cap of 30,000 refugees to be admitted to the US in FY19 which begins in nine days.
Although as we have chronicled over the years, the State Department and Congress have played loosey-goosey with the required “consultation” between the branches over the refugee numbers for the coming year, Pompeo’s surprise announcement did seem premature.
(See my post of last year about what the process is supposed to entail, here.)
Now we see there is some waffling after a sanctimonious Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has called out the Administration for not “consulting” with them first.
Many legally-required consultations over the last ten years have been nothing-burgers where a few staffers from the State Department went to the Hill to meet with staffers there to discuss the coming refugee year.
I don’t know if any Members even show up. I asked my Congressman if I might be permitted to go to the consultation one year and he reported that, no the public was not permitted to attend.
Although, in most years the consultations were perfunctory, there was one exception recently and that was the big show that Secretary of State John Kerry put on for FY2016 about Obama’s inflated 110,000 determination in the fall of 2016. (They thought Hillary was going to win and they were flexing muscles and getting ready for the big year ahead!)
Otherwise there has been only scant attention paid to the law requiring that the President consult with Congress over the numbers.
Now here we see that the outgoing Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, wants his consultation.
Heck, maybe the Administration can give him a consultation next month, or in November, and hold up the whole darn thing with zero coming in in the interim!
From The Hill:
Goodlatte: Administration undercut law, Congress by setting refugee cap
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on Thursday accused the State Department of defying the law by proposing a sharp reduction in refugees to the United States.
The charge marks a rare rebuke of the administration from Goodlatte, who wants officials to consult “immediately” with Congress before establishing a final cap on refugees to be accepted into the country next year.
“The law is clear: the Administration must consult with Congress prior to the President’s determination of the annual refugee ceiling,” Goodlatte said in a statement. “But this did not happen this year, and the Trump Administration has no excuse for not complying with their obligation under the law.”
Democrats have pounced on the cutbacks, warning that the administration is undermining the country’s historic role and international credibility as the world’s safe-harbor for threatened populations and a champion of human rights.
Republican critics have focused less on the figures than on the legality of the administration’s move to establish a cap without first seeking input from Congress. Earlier this week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) condemned the administration’s unilateral move.
Goodlatte took that criticism a step further, suggesting no refugee cap can be legally established without Congress weighing in first.
“There is a real question as to whether the President can even set a number of refugees that carries the weight of law unless it is done after an appropriate consultation with Congress,” Goodlatte said.
He’s also calling for reforms that would empower Congress, not the administration, to have the ultimate say in determining that annual number.
By the way, Goodlatte has been responsible for this committee and the refugee program for years and never really pushed for serious reform of the Refugee Act of 1980. Oh yeh, he proposed some legislation, but never made it a priority.
Now we see that in response, the State Department is saying there is wiggle room in that 30,000 cap. The Hill story continues….
On Tuesday, the day after Pompeo’s announcement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration plans to consult with Congress before finalizing its refugee ceiling. The cap “may” change, she said, based on those talks.
Hey folks, don’t think this means the number could go down!
Remember I said it should be zero, which would be the only leverage the White House would have to push a complete overhaul of an ill-conceived US Refugee Admissions Program.
Before the President makes his final ‘determination’ a hearing “shall be held” in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees!
So let’s have the full legal requirements carried out which includes a public hearing by Goodlatte’s committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee centered around a report the State Department is supposed to send to Congress as part of the consultation process.
Let’s begin following the law now and maybe the whole decision can be dragged out for months.