House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticized secret negotiations between the Obama Administration and Australia for the resettlement of migrants from terrorist-producing countries refused under the latter’s border blockade policy. The migrants are from Iran and Sudan -- both State Department-designated state sponsors of terrorism -- plus Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq.
In an effort to deter people smuggling across the dangerous waters from Asia, Australia earlier this year announced it would not accept asylum seekers arriving outside of official channels. The nation imposed a coastal blockade and moved the migrants to offshore immigration detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
The Wall Street Journal on November 11th reported Secretary of State John Kerry had struck a secret deal with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull to resettle migrants in Nauru and Papua New Guinea under referrals by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Kerry and Turnbull did not disclose the number likely to resettled by the U.S. or the terms.
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Chairmen Goodlatte and Grassley said they had learned through the media that migrants interdicted before reaching Australia’s shores could be transferred to U.S. soil almost immediately. They wrote:
“[Y]our departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without…notifying Congress…during the annual refugee consultation that occurred on September 13, 2016, even though your staff confirmed that the agreement had, at the time, been negotiated ‘for months.’ [T]he agreement and the number of refugees to be resettled has been deemed by your departments as classified, thus the American people are left in the dark as to the rationale for this agreement. [T]he individuals who will be resettled are coming from countries of national security concern...[I]t begs the question why Australia and other countries refuse to admit these individuals…[and] what kind of precedent this sets for future refugees interdicted.”
The chairmen requested a copy of the agreement and a briefing so that “the American people [can] be fully aware of the specific details…and why it was done in secret.”
Read the Chairmen's press release.
Updated: Wed, Dec 7th 2016 @ 12:00pm EST