Trump White House (again) thinking about moving refugee admissions OUT of State Department

The stated reason to consider moving the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to the independent USAID is to save money by bringing our admissions program and humanitarian foreign aid together under one roof.

pompeo and tillerson

What will new Secretary of State Pompeo do? (outgoing Rex Tillerson appeared to have been hands-off when it came to refugees).

I’m in no position to judge the wisest place to move it, but I am eager to see the little fiefdoms fall and cozy relationships broken between resettlement contractors and DOS bureaucrats.

And, I have long maintained that refugee admission decisions should not be used as part of our foreign policy wheeling and dealing!

As early as 2012 (when the State Department did formerly invite comment on the program), I gave 10 reasons for a moratorium and this is my number seven:

7)   Congress needs to specifically disallow the use of the refugee program for other purposes of the US Government, especially using certain refugee populations to address unrelated foreign policy objectives—Uzbeks, Kosovars, Meshketians and Bhutanese (Nepalese) people come to mind.

If I were to write that today, I would be adding those Australian detainees we are magically transforming in to legitimate refugees for your American towns!

Either people are legitimate refugees deserving a shot at a better life and have no other options, or not. The program shouldn’t be used in any carrot/stick foreign policy wrangling.

But, that is exactly what a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee is arguing at Foreign Policy in a story entitled:

White House Weighs Taking Refugee Programs Away From State Department

Mike Pompeo’s first test could be a plan to remove refugee aid from Foggy Bottom

The article is long, but it is worth reading the whole thing. Here, however, are a few snips:

The Trump administration is considering shifting migration programs worth billions of dollars out of the U.S. State Department to another government agency, a move that would signal a historic shift in how refugees are handled, according to current and former officials.

The idea was floated last year, but former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fended off the move after humanitarian organizations, diplomats, and lawmakers from both parties argued against the change. After Tillerson’s firing in March, however, the proposal is back on the table.

At issue is the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, which manages a budget of roughly $3.4 billion. The bureau, which oversees the U.S. government’s refugee program, is a critical tool of American diplomacy, according to current and former officials.

Opponents of the move argue that shifting the bureau out of Foggy Bottom would undermine America’s international influence and reinforce a perception abroad that the United States no longer places a priority on helping refugees fleeing war or persecution.

The internal debate over who should oversee the country’s refugee program comes as aid groups and lawmakers blasted the Trump administration’s admissions policy, accusing the White House of abandoning America’s moral and diplomatic leadership while the world faces the worst refugee crisis in history. [Blah, blah, blah!—-ed]


Officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) favor transferring the overseas humanitarian assistance programs out of the State Department bureau to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which handles other relief programs. USAID is supposed to follow the secretary of state’s overall guidance on foreign policy, but it operates as an independent agency and often has turf battles with Foggy Bottom. [The earlier discussion about moving the USRAP focused around moving it to Homeland Security.—ed]


Under previous presidents, the National Security Council and the State Department led discussions on refugee policy. But under President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House Domestic Policy Council are driving the debate, current and former officials say. As a result, domestic politics — and the president’s pledge to crack down on all forms of immigration — have shaped decision-making. [This is a reference to the ‘evil’ Stephen Miller—ed]


Using refugee decisions as leverage! 


The IRC must see itself as a wing of US policy making! Does IRC CEO David Miliband still fancy himself as Britain’s foreign secretary?


Nazanin Ash here at the Clinton Global Initiative says refugee admission decisions can be used as leverage. So ‘refugees’ are pawns?

“This administration has viewed resettlement through a domestic policy and political lens. What they have failed to capture and understand is that refugee resettlement is purposefully grounded in our foreign policy,” says Nazanin Ash, vice president of public policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee.

The 38-year-old legislation that set up the country’s refugee program intentionally empowers the secretary of state to set policy and pledge humanitarian assistance in crises, says Ash, a former State Department official. “It helps with regional stability and security. Part of our leverage is saying, ‘We will take a certain number of refugees,’” she says.


It is all Stephen Miller’s fault!


Those concerns were reinforced when the administration recently chose Andrew Veprek to serve as deputy assistant secretary at the refugee bureau. Now in a senior role at the bureau, Veprek holds hard-line views on refugees that have raised alarms among State Department officials.

stephen Miller the brain

Several current and former State Department and White House officials say Veprek, a midlevel foreign service officer, argued for more restrictions on admitting refugees when he served under White House senior advisor Stephen Miller, who has masterminded the president’s anti-immigration agenda. In an internal debate in the administration last year, Veprek pushed hard to scale back the number of refugees who could be admitted to the United States, while portraying them as a serious security threat.

“He is a true believer in the Trump immigration agenda,” says a former administration official, speaking to FP on condition of anonymity.

(A website called ‘Diplopundit’ gives us their negative views on the mysterious Mr. Veprek.)

Is the Jihad Caucus back? (Those were the Democrat Senators who pushed for about a hundred thousand Syrians to be admitted to the US when they thought Hillary was on her way in to the White House.)

Foreign Policy continues….

Veprek’s recent appointment prompted a letter on Tuesday from a dozen Democratic senators, who raised concerns about his relatively junior rank as a foreign service officer and his track record on immigration and refugees.

Joining Jersey Bob Menendez in that letter to Secretary of State Pompeo were the usual suspects, but surprisingly some of the leaders of the Jihad Caucus from 2015 are absent, hmmm? No Dianne Feinstein, no Amy Klobuchar?

Joining Menendez in sending the letter were Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Jeanne Shaheen (D- N.H.); Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.); Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Read the whole Foreign Policy article here.

Contact the President (see link in upper right hand side bar here at RRW).  Tell him what you think should be done with the UN/US Refugee Admissions Program.