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House, Senate Judiciary Committee Members React To 45,000 Refugee Cap

Senators say they were ‘frustrated’ with consultation process in bipartisan statement

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista talks to supporters and protesters outside of his ...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista talks to supporters and protesters outside of his Vista office, Feb. 21, 2017.

House, Senate Judiciary Committee Members React To 45,000 Refugee Cap

GUEST:

Etleva Bejko, director of refugee and immigration services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Members on the House and Senate judiciary committees officially responded along party lines Wednesday to the president's proposed reduction in refugee admissions, although two senators issued a bipartisan statement criticizing the Trump administration's handling of the process.

Media outlets reported this week President Donald Trump would cut the ceiling on refugee arrivals for next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, from 50,000 to 45,000. An official announcement is expected in "the coming days," the Associated Press reported, following consultations with lawmakers, which occurred Wednesday.

Federal law requires the president or his designated representative to discuss refugee admission issues with House and Senate judiciary committee members ahead of the new fiscal year. Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is the only San Diego-area representative to sit on one of the relevant bodies. His office did not respond to a request for comment, but a House Judiciary Committee aide said Issa was in attendance.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, said the administration's proposal would fulfill the U.S.'s role to serve vulnerable immigrants while also protecting the safety of Americans.

"The Trump Administration’s refugee ceiling for the coming year maintains our nation’s generosity toward those in need, and importantly, ensures limited resources are used wisely and our citizens are protected in light of ongoing terrorist threats," Goodlatte said in a statement.

Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, the chairman of the judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, echoed Goodlatte's support.

"While the Obama Administration increased the refugee ceiling at a time when security threats from abroad were growing, President Trump is exercising smart leadership by putting the safety of the American people first," said Labrador.

RELATED: Report: White House To Lower Refugee Cap

On the contrary, their political counterparts on the committee expressed outrage over the Republican president's proposed cut. Reps. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., and California's Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, called the reduction "an affront to the United States’ legacy as a protector of oppressed people" in a joint statement.

"Today’s decision turns our back on the world at a time when there are more refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons than at any time since World War II. It is an abdication of our moral authority, and an abandonment of the very values that make America great," Conyers and Lofgren said in the news release.

In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, California's Democratic senator, responded in a statement together that did not share opinions on the cut but instead criticized the manner in which lawmakers were informed.

“We are incredibly frustrated that the annual consultation for refugee admissions, which is required by law, was finalized just one day in advance. It is simply unacceptable to read in the press that the administration had reached its decision on the refugee cap before the mandated meeting with Congress had even been scheduled," Grassley and Feinstein said in the statement.

The two senators said they had requested meetings with the State Department since August.

"Congress and the law require real engagement on this important subject. An eleventh-hour meeting to check a legal box is not sufficient," the statement concluded.

Additionally, Feinstein called the drop "unacceptable" in a statement of her own.

“California accepts more refugees than any other state—9 percent of the U.S. total—and I’ve never been told about a problem," she said. "Simply put, our country is not doing its part to respond to this global crisis and there’s no good reason for that to be the case."

Former President Barack Obama had set a cap of 110,000 refugees this past fiscal year, which stretched from October 2016 to September 2017. When Trump entered office, he called for a decrease to 50,000 refugees and halted the resettlement process with a series of executive orders that also limited travel from certain countries, citing security concerns. The new ceiling of 45,000 would go into effect for federal fiscal year 2018, which begins on Sunday.

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