Judicial Watch Sues State Department for Obama-Era Records on Refugee Resettlement Site Locations
(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for records on sites that were considered for the resettlement of refugees in the United States during the last two years of the Obama administration. (Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:18-cv-01244))
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to a February 23, 2017, FOIA request seeking:
- All records reflecting the locations within the United States that were considered as possible sites for refugee resettlement under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) in 2015 and 2016.
- All records reflecting the criteria used to determine suitability of locations as refugee resettlement sites in 2015 and 2016.
- All records reflecting the names of local organizations promoting any of the locations identified above for consideration as refugee resettlement sites.
In October 2016, Judicial Watch made public 128 pages of documents it obtained from the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, showing a concerted effort by the mayor and a number of private organizations to conceal from the public their plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees into the small southern Vermont town. The mayor and resettlement organizations shrouded the plan in such secrecy that not even the town’s aldermen were informed of what was taking place behind closed doors. The aldermen eventually wrote to the U.S. Department of State protesting the plan and opened an investigation into the mayor’s actions.
The State Department says it currently works with nine nonprofit organizations to resettle refugees. Those nonprofits have about 315 affiliates in 180 communities throughout the U.S.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.S. admitted 84,994 refugees during fiscal year 2016, just short of the 85,000 target set by the Obama administration. The U.S. admitted 16,370 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12,587 from Syria, 12,347 from Myanmar, 9,880 from Iraq and 9,020 from Somalia. Pew Research reports that nearly 39,000 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. in fiscal year 2016, the highest number on record, according to analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
In fiscal year 2015, the U.S. reportedly admitted 70,000 refugees.
The Obama administration also proposed admitting 110,000 refugees for fiscal year 2017.
President Donald Trump on January 27, 2017 issued Executive Order 13769, which included a suspension of the USRAP for 120 days. There were 29,022 refugees reportedly admitted to the U.S. in 2017 – the lowest number since 2002.
In a July 2017 report on the refugee applicant screening process and associated fraud risks, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that “Increases in the number of USRAP applicants approved for resettlement in the United States from countries where terrorists operate have raised questions about the adequacy of applicant screening.”
“Judicial Watch is suing to find out which towns across America were, without input and over the objections of residents, targeted for refugee settlements by the Obama administration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And we are investigating to make sure now that the current State Department is being more transparent in its placement of refugees.”