WASHINGTON, D.C. • U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador is sponsoring legislation to give Congress more control over the number of refugees coming into the country and let communities that don’t want refugee resettlement reject them.
The bill, which the Idaho Republican introduced Monday, would cap the number of refugees to be allowed into the United States at 60,000 per year and bars the president from raising the ceiling without congressional approval. It would also bar refugee resettlement in any state or locality whose legislative body or executive has taken any action disapproving of refugee resettlement.
States or municipalities would not be able to pick and choose whether to resettle refugees based on country, Labrador spokesman Dan Popkey said, so states that have called for a halt to resettlement of just Syrians could not. However, they could opt out of the program entirely.
The bill would also grant priority for admission to refugees who are being persecuted based on their religion and who are members of minority religions in their countries. And, among other changes designed to bolster security, it would require regular security vetting of each refugee admitted until the refugees’ status changes from refugee to lawful permanent resident.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the legislation Wednesday, Labrador said in a statement. He is co-sponsoring it with Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and two other Southern Republicans.
“The bill improves prospects for success by placing refugees in communities that have the infrastructure to support them and by giving priority to persecuted religious minorities,” Labrador’s statement said. “To continue America’s long history of welcoming those in need, we must restore confidence in the safeguards protecting our security. I thank Chairman Goodlatte for his good counsel and partnership in developing and advancing real solutions to this complex issue.”
The section prioritizing persecuted members of minority religions would, in the case of Middle Easterners, have the effect of prioritizing the admission of Christians over Muslims, which a number of mostly Republican politicians, including several of the party’s presidential candidates, have called for. In countries where Muslims are a persecuted minority, such as Myanmar, it would have the effect of prioritizing them.
So far, the state Legislature has not taken any action related to refugee resettlement in this year’s session, although a bill has been introduced to ban the use of foreign law that is partially driven by fears of the potential use of Shariah law among the state’s Muslim population, many of whom came here as refugees and live mostly in the Boise and Twin Falls areas. Bonner and Boundary county commissioners in northern Idaho, neither of which are currently resettlement sites, voted late last year to call for a halt to refugee resettlement.