Excerpted From Fox News: Nearly 2,500 refugees from terrorism hotspots around the world are bound for the U.S. after being rejected by Australia, but not even top lawmakers can get answers about who they are.
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. State Department has classified details on refugees to be resettled in America via a secret deal made with Australia. The bi-lateral agreement, which Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called a “one-off,” involves 2,465 people currently being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who will now be transferred onto U.S. soil.
“This is a backroom deal, wheeling and dealing with another country’s refugee problem,” Center for Immigration Studies fellow Don Barnett told FoxNews.com. “I don’t believe for a moment it’s a one-time deal. That’s for public consumption.”
The move has also raised a red flag among Congressional oversight members.
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, key lawmakers Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., complained about the lack of transparency.
“This situation is concerning for many reasons,” read the letter, charging that “your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress.”
Screeners from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services are set to leave for the Pacific Island nations next month to begin vetting the refugees.
When staffers probed the number of individuals being considered for resettlement, they were told it was “classified,” even though refugee admissions are traditionally public. Officials, however, did confirm countries of origin to be Iran, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Sudan, as well as some deemed “stateless.”
Iran, Sudan and Syria are the three countries on the U.S. current State Sponsors of Terrorism list. But Barnett said the “stateless” category is most worrisome.
“These could be Burmese Muslims, who have posed assimilation issues for every nation which has taken them,” said Barnett. “It’s a dangerous precedent which says, ‘We’ll take any ethnic group with which you don’t get along.’”
Australia has been under fire for paying poor surrounding island nations to house detention centers for refugees. Australia created the camps in an effort to curtail “people smuggling” and has long had a policy which prevents individuals seeking asylum from entering the country before being vetted.
The Goodlatte-Grassley letter also asked why Australia and other countries refused to take in the refugees.
“If they’ve been vetted and deemed inadmissible, the U.S. can’t say, ‘You don’t want them, so we’ll take them,’” said Barnett. Keep reading