A reader sent me today’s Washington Post article about our “heroic” efforts to pluck Iraqi refugees out of Syria and bring them to America…..and, sent some probing questions.
“We had to literally build programs in Syria and Jordan,” said Terry Rusch, who directs the office of admissions in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. She added that the refugee program has “accelerated dramatically” now that resources are in place.
Of the 4,300 Iraqi refugees interviewed by his department this fiscal year, he said, 753 have been rejected for reasons including criminal records and inconsistencies in their stories.
The officials conceded continued difficulty in processing cases in Syria, where a number of U.S. officials have been denied entry visas.
“Not only has DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) not been able to get in to do more adjudications, but we have not been able to expand our own processing staff at the pace we would normally have done because of restrictions by the government of Syria,” Rusch said.
Syria has absorbed 1.5 million Iraqi refugees — by far the most of any nation. But since September 2006, only 208 have been admitted to the United States after being processed in that country.
Here is what our reader asks:
Why are we “building programs” in an enemy country, Syria? If refugees were safe in Syria, why are we helping them? (Why were they safe?) Are we giving money to Syria for refugee camps? If so, how much?
And here is what I want to know: If we can’t get enough of the proper personel into Syria in the first place, how are we going to adequately screen large numbers of refugees to be sure they aren’t criminals or terrorists?
Answer? We have completely lost it!
And, by the way, Terry Rusch (above) is the State Department representative who came to Hagerstown just this week. The recent uproar over some proposed Burmese refugees is nothing compared to the outcry that will ensue if Shiia Iraqis from Syria were to be resettled in Hagerstown! I’ll be selling tickets for ring side seats!
As I mentioned previously, I had high hopes for straight answers at the Hagerstown Refugee Resettlement forum on September 19. Here is an example of how government officials confuse the public:
The question, asked of the US State Department, went something like this (shortened here): Doesn’t Refugee Resettlement cost the taxpayers about one billion a year? But, the questioner made the fatal error of using the word “grants” in the question somewhere. This allowed the federal representative to say, according to her numbers the grants were around $500 million, not a billion.
The average citizen has no clue about various funding mechanisms in differant agencies of the government, and isn’t expected to know that there are government grants and contracts, in addition to other funding categories.
This is how the question should have been answered truthfully: The grants portion is primarily a function of the Dept. of Health and Human Services and is in the vicinity of $500 million (actually I think its closer to $600 million this year), and our (State Dept.) portion includes contracts etc. and is around $200 million right now. Homeland Security expends about
$12 $20 million for its portion of refugee resettlement. And then, yes, there are other expenses borne at various levels of government (school, medical and so on). Then look the questioner in the eye and say YES, the cost for Refugee Resettlement is around one billion a year.
Is that so hard? Why play a little game of semantics? Stop insulting us, and tell us the truth! When you don’t, people ask, well what else are they not telling us?
See the September Forum category to follow our coverage of this meeting.
From a U.S. State Department press release today:
Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) Ellen R.
Sauerbrey has led diplomatic efforts to expand humanitarian space for UN
agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to respond to humanitarian
needs of Iraqi refugees in the region.
By the end of 2007, the USG will have provided almost
$1 billion in humanitarian assistance for displaced Iraqis in Iraq and
neighboring states since 2003.
We should continue to care for Iraqis displaced by the war in the region, care for their needs as best we can, and plan to return them to a stabilized Iraq. Hang in there Asst. Secretary Sauerbrey, resist the drumbeat from those seeking to undermine the war while adding to the immigrant population of America.
The United Nations said today that the number of Iraqi asylum seekers is up sharply. The AP is reporting that 19,800 Iraqis are seeking asylum in 36 Western countries.
Sweden was the most popular destination for Iraqi asylum seekers, with nearly half of the applications filed this year in industrialized countries — 9,300 people, UNHCR said.
“The large Iraqi community and its strong social network in Sweden might be part of the reasons for the high concentration of Iraqi asylum seekers going to that country,” spokesman Ron Redmond said.
Greece was No. 2 with some 3,500 asylum requests, followed by Spain with 1,500 and Germany with 820. Only 385 Iraqis sought asylum in the United States.
Poor Sweden, see our earlier posts here and here.
As the drumbeat intensifies to open our arms to Iraqi refugees, Asst. Sec. of State Ellen Sauerbrey speaking at a hearing before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom yesterday stressed the point that seems to be lost in the discussion:
…… a lesson learned from the 9-11 attacks was that “any program that allows people to enter our country must guard against terrorist infiltration.”
Tell that to drummer Church World Service actively lobbying to have S. 1651 attached to the Defense Authorization bill at this very moment. I hope they have good accountants and are making sure they don’t use any of the millions they receive from the taxpayers for refugee resettlement for lobbying in Washington. Busy aren’t they?
Additional comment: When I wrote this yesterday I should have mentioned that this is a twofer for Church World Services. The bills to open the floodgates to Iraqi refugees not only bring more refugees for CWS to place and collect their federal income, but it undermines the military surge by sending the signal that these people will never be able to go home to Iraq.
For an analysis of the bill CWS is pushing see Center for Vigilant Freedom.
For a review of all of our coverage of Iraqi refugees, go to that category on the left.