Senate and House Judiciary chairmen called on the White House Tuesday to declassify the details of a secret agreement to accept some 2,000 refugees currently held in off-shore detention camps by Australia.
The vast majority of the refugees housed in these camps are from the Middle East and have so far been rejected for resettlement by Australia. The reasons behind their rejection have not been made public. The White House has agreed to resettle many of them in the U.S., but in an unprecedented move, has classified the details of the plan.
Republicans Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bob Goodlatte raised concerns about the classification of the details following news of the agreement in November, and said Congress should have been consulted about the agreement. They attended a close-door brief with White House officials on details of the deal, which they said has convinced them there is “absolutely … no reason” for the specifics of the plan to be kept a secret from the American public.
“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,” Grassley and Goodlatte wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. “To that end, we request that you declassify the document outlining the agreement so that the American people can read it.”
A vast majority of the refugees housed in the detention camps from which the White House has agreed to take in are from the Middle East and Africa. Many are from Iran, and others are from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan. DHS officials are already on their way to interview refugees there recommended for resettlement, and according to The Center for Immigration Studies, as many as 1,600 of them could be resettled in the U.S. before Obama leaves office in January 2017.
“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,” Grassley and Goodlatte add in the letter. “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.”
Australia recently agreed to take in Central American refugees, making it look like Obama agreed to take in refugees from less desirable parts of the world in exchange for Australia’s participation in taking the more desirable refugees. Australia has denied the participation in that program has anything to do with Obama’s agreement.
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