WASHINGTON — An Idaho congressman has re-introduced a bill to set a lower cap on refugee resettlement and let cities and states opt out of the program if they want.
U.S. Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., reintroduced the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act on Thursday. Goodlatte is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would likely hear the bill.
The bill would set a 50,000-a-year ceiling on refugee admissions — significantly lower than the ceilings set in the last years of the Obama administration, but the same number President Donald Trump has proposed — and Congress would have to vote to raise this. It would also prevent the resettlement of refugees in any state or locality that takes legislative or executive action disapproving resettlement.
Among other security-related changes, the bill would require review of refugees applicants’ social media posts as well as regular security vetting of refugees who are admitted to the country until they become permanent residents — refugees are required to apply for permanent resident status after being in the country for a year. Also, if a country is listed as a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom, refugee claims based on religious persecution by members of minority religions would be prioritized. It would also require the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the refugee program’s security, the number of refugees who have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses and the use of federally funded benefit programs by refugees.
“The most important factor when it comes to America’s refugee program is ensuring the safety and security of the American people,” Labrador said. “I support America’s refugee program, but it needs to be modernized to keep up with the security challenges of today’s world. There are already documented cases of terrorists infiltrating our refugee program, and with ISIS vowing to exploit it further, the time for Congressional action is now.”
Goodlatte and Labrador introduced a similar bill last year as well, but its chances of becoming law this year would seem higher now that Trump is president. The two also co-sponsored a bill to crack down on undocumented immigrants that passed committee a couple of weeks ago but has yet to get a full House vote.