Despite the improvement of the refugee vetting process being a key theme during President Trump’s campaign, an Obama administration holdover was recently named as the associate director of the Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate (RAIO) of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A Breitbart exclusive report released Friday identified Jennifer Higgins as a protégé of Lori Scialabba, the former acting director of the USCIS. Prior to her resignation in March, Breitbart had described Scialabba as “the number one Obama holdover at DHS President Trump could ‘fire or remove’ because of her open defiance of his first travel ban order and her long record of intervening down the chain to personally assist refugees from Iraq, some of whom were not approved through formal channels.”
As part of the DHS, RAIO’s primary mission is the vetting of refugees who are resettled in the United States under the Refugee Admissions Program authorized under the Refugee Act of 1980.
Via Executive Orders 13769 and 13780, Trump has directed the DHS to identify ways to improve the current refugee vetting process. Despite specific elements of the initial and revised travel suspensions being temporarily blocked in federal courts, the refugee vetting task force remains in effect.
Without open competition for the position, Scialabba arranged to have Higgins promoted from her previous official job as RAIO’s deputy associate director to associate director. Breitbart reports that “Higgins has not actually done any work for the RAIO job for which she has been paid since early 2016,” but is “currently engaged ‘on detail’ at DHS headquarters.”
Prior to her current assignment, Higgins had a long career at RAIO, where, by 2011, she served as deputy chief of the Refugee Affairs Division, one of three within the RAIO.
According to the USCIS website, “The Refugee Affairs Division provides resettlement benefits to people who are outside their countries and cannot or are unwilling to return to their homes because they fear serious harm.” RAIO also includes the Asylum Division, which “manages the U.S. affirmative asylum process,” and the International Operations Division, which “with offices around the world, is the face of USCIS abroad.”
During Higgins’ tenure as deputy chief, she “was 100 percent supporting the Obama administration in meeting their refugee targets. She browbeat employees to meet the Obama refugee targets,” a source familiar with DHS operations said.
The source added, “It seems she has had a complete theological shift and is now trying to burrow into the permanent apparatus around General Kelly.” Furthermore, Higgins “has changed her spots and is now portraying herself as an ally of the Trump administration. General Kelly is ill-served having her at Headquarters.”
Breitbart contends that “[t]he Refugee, Asylum and International Operations office at USCIS has been well known as a partisan advocate for promoting asylum to unqualified applicants since at least the 2000s when Lori Scialabba headed the office.”
A source within the DHS told Breitbart, “What [the] USCIS has done through policy, not law, is they have made it impossible to deny asylum to people [sic] that gut feelings say is a bad guy.”
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