Secret U.S.-Australian Refugee Agreement Comes Under Fire

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Lawmakers requested Tuesday that President Obama disclose details of a secret refugee transfer agreement made between the United States and Australia.

The contentious deal made between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Australian government allows 2,400 refugees from terror hotspots all over the world to be accepted into the United States. All of which were denied entry into Australia. 

According to the Washington Examiner, the agreement was announced in November by Secretary Kerry after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed to allow entry of the Costa Rican migrants into his country.

In a letter sent to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the lawmakers asked for more transparency from the deal as they wrote, “Classification of an agreement regarding individuals to be considered for admission by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is unprecedented.”

They not only expressed their concerns regarding lack of transparency, but of the increased costs to the taxpayer and to security of our people.

They wrote, “These migrants are nationals of countries like Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan, as well as others,” the lawmakers wrote to Kerry and Johnson. “The American people have a right to be fully aware of the actions of their government regarding foreign nationals who may be admitted to the United States. American taxpayers not only foot the bill for the majority of the refugee resettlement in the United States, but they bear any consequences regarding the security implications of those admitted to the U.S.”

Grassley and Goodlatte told the agencies as there was no reason for the deal to be classified from the beginning that they should declassify the information regarding the agreement so people are informed of the current situation.

Currently the refugees are being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who will eventually be transferred onto U.S. soil.

The letter concerning the refugees is shown below.

December 6, 2016


VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretaries Johnson and Kerry:

We write to follow up on our November 22, 2016 letter regarding the agreement between the United States and Australia for the United States to consider for admission as refugees, potentially over 2,400 migrants currently detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, whom Australia has refused to admit. These migrants are nationals of countries like Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan, as well as others. As you know, your agencies have deemed the agreement classified. This is despite the fact that classification of an agreement regarding individuals to be considered for admission by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is unprecedented.

We appreciate your making staff available to provide us with the document in a classified setting and to brief us regarding the circumstances surrounding the agreement. It is now absolutely apparent to us that there was no reason for the agreement to be classified from the outset, and that it should not continue to be classified. To that end, we request that you declassify the document outlining the agreement so that the American people can read it.

The American people have a right to be fully aware of the actions of their government regarding foreign nationals who may be admitted to the United States. American taxpayers not only foot the bill for the majority of the refugee resettlement in the United States, but they bear any consequences regarding the security implications of those admitted to the U.S.

Please respond by December 13, 2016, with your decision as to whether or not you will declassify the U.S.-Australia refugee agreement document. If your decision is not to seek declassification, please include your justification for such decision in your response.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary

Charles E. Grassley
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary

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