Update Feb. 21st: More on this issue here.
In the last few days Ann and I have seen numerous references to a presidential directive that supposedly opens the floodgates to hundreds of thousands of people from Gaza “migrating” to the United States. Two of these articles, by usually credible sources, are here and here, and we saw several others. They all refer to a Presidential Directive that reads as follows (from the White House web site):
Relief for Gaza
President Obama signed a memorandum today directing more than $20 million for “urgent refugee and migration needs” in Gaza.
You can read the full text of the memorandum below.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 2, 2009
January 27, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
SUBJECT: Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration
Needs Related to Gaza
By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the “Act”), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act in an amount not to exceed $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.
You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
It must be the word “migration” in the headline and body of the directive that has set so many people to reporting President Obama’s treachery in planning to flood us with Gazans. That’s not what the directive says, folks. We are sending emergency funds to Gaza, by way of international organizations, and that’s all.
Just to be sure, I talked to an official at the State Department. He said the fund in question, known as ERMA (the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance fund), is run out of the White House. That is, the president has discretion to use it for what he determines are emergencies. It is for providing funds for people in place — that is, where they are in need in other countries, not here. He pointed out that “migration” is not the same as “immigration.” It means people moving around, that’s all.
Ann posted on this directive on January 30, when it was issued. We both understood at the time that it referred to aid to Gaza civilians in Gaza. In her post Ann was critical of the emergency aid because we are well aware that much of such aid ends up in the hands of Hamas.
George W. Bush also used the ERMA fund. In September 2007 I posted on a $24 million expenditure, quoting from Reuters:
President George W. Bush authorized up to $24 million to meet “unexpected and urgent” needs of refugees from conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka, according to a memorandum released on Monday.
The amount from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund was not to exceed $24 million “for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs,” Bush said in a memorandum to the Secretary of State.The funds were for international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations, and administrative expenses of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the memo said.
It is understandable that the directive would be interpreted as it was. We have learned that we cannot trust anything President Obama says or does. And he has been positively obsequious toward the Muslim world since he took office — no, since well before he took office.
But in this case the interpretation is wrong. And it needs to be corrected. Remember that our side was hurt when we allowed false rumors about Bill Clinton to circulate unimpeded. There are enough true bad actions to pin on Obama; we don’t need this false one.
Here’s a good, factual article on the matter, mostly quoting the State Department press release. Ironically, it comes from TASS, the Russian news agency.
Update Feb. 13th: More on ERMA here.
Update Feb. 18th: Snopes is now on the case. I suspect Snopes used this post or an email circulating about it for leads to the facts, since its discussion references the George W. Bush authorization of funds.