HR 2826 A New, Less Compassionate Stance on Refugees

HR 2826 A New, Less Compassionate Stance on Refugees

At present there are roughly 20 million refugees in this world, which is a number so large it is hard to wrap one’s mind around… but one can always try (http://www.unhcr.org/refugees.html). Let’s try to make this number more understandable by looking at our home state. CA has an estimated population of 39,523,613 million making 20 million individuals just over half of our state’s residents. San Diego County has an estimated population of 3,316,192 meaning that six San Diego Countys would be roughly the number of refugees in this world and it would take 133 Escondidos to equal the number of peoples on our planet that have had to flee their homes (All population data taken from: http://www.dof.ca.gov/Forecasting/Demographics/Estimates/E-5/ – download the spreadsheet to look at the population estimates).

It should be noted that this number of refugees does not count those individuals who are displaced within their own countries or who fled but do not meet the definition of a refugee, by some estimates the number of people who have fled their homes is closer to 40 million (source: Washington Post article, link is below). Needless to say, we are living through a time period which will be remembered for the extreme number of refugees and displaced peoples; some experts regard our current situation as the worst in recorded history while others regard the world’s situation as the worst since WWII (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/18/graphic-the-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-the-worst-in-recorded-history/?utm_term=.b20a3a0e2fd2, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/20/world/world-refugee-day-worst-crisis-in-history/index.html, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-egeland/refugee-crisis-wwii-aid-_b_5791776.html).

As noted there is a definition for what it means to be a refugee. This definition was crafted at a United Nations Conference in 1951 and updated in 1961, the definition reads as follows:A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it,” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/who-is-a-refugee-1.1191503). Phrased a bit more simply, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries,” (http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/). If you are curious what the definitions and differences between someone with refugee versus asylum status versus internally displaced person are, then go to: http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/.

With so many people in dire need, it made sense when President Obama, in 2015, decided to increase the number of refugees America accepts each year, from a maximum of 70,000 to 100,000 (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/europe/us-to-increase-admission-of-refugees-to-100000-in-2017-kerry-says.html). As then Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “This step that I am announcing today, I believe, is in keeping with the best tradition of America as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” (source: see above).

Oh how long ago those days seem… HR 2826 would change our nation’s stance on refugees and this bill has been voted to come out of committee and be voted on by the full House, by our Rep. Hunter. Five key changes this bill puts forward are as follows: 1) the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. is changed, 2) preferential status is given to certain groups, 3) the role of the states and localities is altered 4) the definition of refugee is changed and 5) the assumption that refugees are fraudulent and dangerous is present within the bill. For the full text of the bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2826/text?r=1

Change # 1) the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. is changed. As noted, as of now the maximum number of refugees allowed into the US each year is 100,000. This bill changes that to 50,000 and gives the President the prerogative, after consulting with Congress, to increase or reduce this number as deemed appropriate, “SEC. 2. Annual adjustment of the number of admissible refugees. (a) In general.—Section 207(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1157(a)(2)) is amended by striking all that follows after ‘shall be’ and inserting the following: ‘50,000. The President may, after appropriate consultation, submit a recommendation to Congress for the revision of such number not later than 6 months prior to the beginning of such fiscal year, setting forth the justification for such revision due to humanitarian concerns or that such revision is otherwise in the national interest,’” (source: see above).

Change # 2) preferential status is given to certain groups. At present Christians from the Middle East do not receive preference or priority when it comes to receiving refugee status, something that the conservative right finds abhorrent (http://www.newsmax.com/BillDonohue/christian-christians-refugee-u-n-/2017/02/01/id/771455/). So it should come as no surprise that HR 2826 would boldly give preferential status to those with a minority religion, “SEC. 4. Priority consideration for certain applicants for refugee status. ‘(6) When processing refugee applications from individuals seeking refuge from a country listed as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ in the annual report of the Commission on International Religious Freedom under section 203 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for the year prior to the current year, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall grant priority consideration to such applicants whose claims are based on persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on religion by reason of those applicants being practitioners of a minority religion in the country from which they sought refuge,’” (source: see above).

Change # 3) the role of the states and localities is altered… it is not too dramatic to say that this bill gets the US one step closer to sanctioned xenophobia, “SEC. 9. Limitation on resettlement. “(g) Limitation on resettlement.— Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, for a fiscal year, the resettlement of any refugee may not be provided for— ‘(1) in any State in which the Governor of that State or the State legislature have taken any action formally disapproving of resettlement in that State; or ‘(2) in any locality where the chief executive of that locality’s government, or the local legislature, has taken any action formally disapproving of resettlement in that locality,’” (source: see above).

Change # 4) the definition of refugee is changed. If you review the United Nations definition of a refugee you will notice that a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” is central to the definition, however if HR 2826 became law then a person would actually have to be a victim of persecution before being eligible for refugee status… no longer would the US follow the internationally recognized definition and people fleeing to protect themselves, to prevent themselves from becoming victims of violence would no longer be eligible for refugee status in the USA. “SEC. 13. Limitation on qualification as a refugee. Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)) is amended by inserting ‘For purposes of this paragraph, a person may not be considered a refugee solely or in part because the person is displaced due to, or is fleeing from, violence in the country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, the country in which such person last habitually resided, if that violence is not specifically directed at the person, or, if it is directed specifically at the person, it is not directed at the person on account of that person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,’” (source: see above). It should be noted that if the person seeking refugee status is a religious minority (presumably Christian), then having “well-founded fear of persecution” is sufficient to quality for refugee status, see change #2 and read the text of the bill.

Change # 5) the assumption that refugees are fraudulent and dangerous is present within the bill, as the sections shown below demonstrate. While there is nothing wrong with determining how and where fraud occurs, the final point, SEC 16(C) sheds light on the presumptions behind this bill. “SEC. 10. Benefit Fraud Assessment. Not later than 540 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shall— (1) complete a study on the processing of refugees by officers and employees of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services including an identification of the most common ways in which fraud occurs in such processing and recommendations for the prevention of fraud in such processing; and (2) submit a report on such study to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate.

SEC. 11. Document fraud detection program. Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish a program for detecting the use of fraudulent documents in applications for admission as a refugee, including— (1) placement of Fraud Detection and National Security officials who are under the direction of the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at initial refugee screening in conjunction with the resettlement agency and with the authority to hold a refugee application in abeyance until any fraud or national security concerns are resolved; and (2) creation of a searchable database of scanned and categorized documents proffered by applicants at initial refugee screening to allow for discovery of fraud trends and random translation verification within such documents.

SEC. 12. Recording of Interviews to Protect Refugees and Prevent Fraud[.]….

SEC. 16. GAO report on U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a review and report to Congress on the following: (1) The security of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, including an examination of— (A) how the U.S. Government conducts security screening and background checks, including the agencies or U.S. Government partners involved and the systems and databases used; (B) how the U.S. Government determines whether applicants are eligible for refugee resettlement and admissible to the United States; and (C) the number of individuals who were admitted into the United States as refugees and subsequently convicted as a result of a terrorism-related investigation by the U.S. Government since fiscal year 2006,” (source: see above).

As these proposed changes show, this bill is not in keeping with, “the best tradition of America as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/europe/us-to-increase-admission-of-refugees-to-100000-in-2017-kerry-says.html). Let us contact Rep. Hunter and let him know that we do not stand behind this bill and neither should he.

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Hunter’s Town Hall, Positions & Policies he Supports

Hunter’s Town Hall, Positions & Policies he Supports

Positions that Duncan Hunter espoused at his Town Hall on March 11, 2017:

Government Affairs

  1. Trump is doing a good job and our nation is great because of our God.
  2. Hunter sees his job as getting the federal government out of your life – out of every aspect of your life.
  3. The state, county and city have more power/impact on you/on people and thus should have the decision making powers (on essentially all issues was the implication) not the federal government.
  4. Deep State exists.

The briefest non-political definition of the newly popular term ‘Deep State’ is that it is the established career civil service professionals throughout government (in every branch & agency) – the individuals who stay even as the presidency and its administration change or to quote Sean Spicer, these are individuals who have “burrowed into government” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/10/politics/trump-deep-state-sean-spicer/). For many the term also includes non government power brokers, such as Wall Street, lobbyists or Silicon Valley (to name a few favorites).

So far this term describes what actually exists, but this is not where the definition ends. This term veers into the land of conspiracy and insanity in that it is being used to capture the belief that the “burrowed” employees have a political agenda different from the Trump administration and are all working in concert to bring the President down so to erect their agenda. They are the unelected shadow government, the swamp that needs to be drained.

Steve Bannon believes in the “deconstruction of the administrative state”, which means dismantling the ‘Deep State’, government regulations, and government departments. Knowing this is akin to the shift when the kaleidoscope goes from disjointedness to clarity.  Firing career professionals say in the State and Justice Departments, not filling government positions, gutting regulations, and appointing cabinet officials who are against the very departments they oversee i.e. who will dismantle the essence of the departments they run, all makes sense – for this is how an “administrative state” is dismantled and it is also how millions of Americans will lose trust in government institutions, will be more vulnerable to trust the one great leader (see the post on Bannon – for this is exactly what Bannon believes will occur and must occur to save America form the Armageddon like existential war he believes we are in).

When citizens and residents in democracies lose the ability to trust the truthfulness of an agency, to trust the inherent decent intentions of government, democracies become vulnerable and history teaches us that many a vulnerable democracy has fallen – so to hear Hunter espouse the rhetoric as well as the policy points of the Bannon wing is a deeply disturbing occurrence. Bannon’s power has reached out past the White House and Hunter has radicalized, he is no longer just a Trump supporter.

A few articles on ‘Deep State’: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/world/americas/what-happens-when-you-fight-a-deep-state-that-doesnt-exist.html?_r=0; http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/20/there-is-no-deep-state; http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/03/economist-explains-6; http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/the-deep-state-is-a-figment-of-steve-bannons-imagination-214892; http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/deep-state-inside-donald-trumps-paranoid-conspiracy-theory-w471375

  1. The Office of Congressional Ethics is a Nancy Pelosi creation and solely a way for liberals to, “throw people under the bus”. The Office should be eliminated and the House Ethics Committee is sufficient.

In short the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is like an Ombudsman. It is an independent review board (with members appointed by the House) that investigates members of the House and their staff if/when ethical concerns arise – anyone, even an anonymous source can bring an issue to the attention of the OCE. The OCE does not have subpoena power but must release to the public a report of their findings and if after their investigation they deem it appropriate the case is referred to the House Ethics Committee (https://oce.house.gov/learn/process/ shows a flow chart depicting how decisions are made). It is the House Ethics Committee that has sole power to discipline its members regarding ethic violations. Here is an interesting interview with the first leader of the OCE: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/03/508075292/first-leader-outlines-history-of-congressional-ethics-office and here are the websites of the OCE: https://oce.house.gov/ and the House Ethics Committee: http://ethics.house.gov/ .

An ironic element to Hunter’s charge of the OCE being a politically motivated entity is that this is exactly what citizen watch-dog groups are charging Speaker Ryan with, due to him changing the rules of how OCE board members are picked (formerly there needed to be agreement between the majority and minority leaders, no more): https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/under-the-radar-change-to-house-ethics-watchdog-may-weaken-it/2017/02/08/7b066f8e-ee31-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?utm_term=.fd872a8dc368. I suspect that this change in rules, or in other words the board members appointed earlier this year exclusively by Republicans, explains why when you search both the OCE and the House Ethics Committee websites for Duncan Hunter, nothing appears – absolutely nothing – no history of his ethics investigation, nada. I even called the OCE to ask them to help me understand this but was politely told that they cannot comment on any investigations that have not been completed. It is my suspicion that Hunter’s investigation in the OCE has been terminated and thus a public report will never occur, a referral to the House Ethics Committee will also never occur. It has if the violations never occurred.

  1. The intelligence community is filled with people who hate Trump and are trying to undermine the administration.
  2. Hunter believes that Trump’s emails and communications were intercepted when Obama was in office.
  3. The EPA has destroyed American business. Hunter referenced a sewage spill in Mexico that impacted Imperial Beach and said that none of us care about it b/c it was not an American company that caused the spill – i.e. we don’t actually care about the environment we only care about fining & crippling American businesses.
  4. A build in America, buy American and only hire Americans policy would be a good policy and should be the policy.
  5. Hunter cannot commit to a rough date (i.e. during the April or August recess) for a future town hall (though he will commit to having one) because his schedule is so busy.

Immigration, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

  1. A border wall is necessary and a key part to ensuring safety as well as stopping undocumented immigration. Hunter put forth that proof for this is the fact that San Diego now has “zero” undocumented immigrants crossing, due to the wall along the San Diego – Mexico border.
  2. Hunter supports the Muslin Ban.
  3. All refugees and asylum seekers who have entered the United States within the last 8 years or so need to receive retroactive “extreme” vetting.
  4. Refugees and Asylum seekers should not be allowed into the United States.
  5. Peoples from countries in Europe, specifically France and Germany, who have welcomed refugees in the past few years should not be allowed into America without vetting because terrorists could be among them.
  6. There should be a halt to all legal immigration because the United States must be focused on itself for a “short” while.

Health Care

  1. Healthcare is not a right and should not be guaranteed but access to healthcare which people can “afford” should be guaranteed – to which a fellow constituent made a wonderful retort, just because I have access to a buy a first class airplane ticket doesn’t mean I can afford it.
  2. The ACA is the reason why healthcare premiums have increased in cost.
  3. Healthcare under the ACA is terrible.
  4. Canadian healthcare is terrible and Canadians come to the US for their healthcare because their healthcare is so bad.
  5. Hunter will, most likely, vote for the Republican healthcare bill.
  6. The fact that the Republican healthcare bill is shorter than the ACA means it is a better bill.
  7. The Republican healthcare bill will provide quality as well as cheaper healthcare for everyone with a job. The tax credits are sufficient.
  8. Medicaid should be a block grant program.

Block grant programs are when the federal government decides that it will no longer pay for a specific service/program and instead gives each states X dollars to pay for the specific service/program. How the state decides to allocate those monies is entirely up to the state. In theory this may seem reasonable but in reality it often means that the federal government gives the states less monies than the federal government would have spent to provide the same service. It also provides an endless blame game – the federal government says they are not responsible if services are inadequately provided because they gave monies to the state and the state/the governor blames the federal government for underfunding the service. In the Republic healthcare bill the block grant funding for Medicaid goes down by roughly 1/3 after a handful of years.

  1. The VA should not provide healthcare to veterans who have a health issue that is not service connected.

Russia

  1. An independent investigation into Russia’s role in the Trump campaign & presidency is not needed because there are congressional investigations, which will be sufficient.

The following three committees are investigating the Trump-Russia ties 1) The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired by Senator Richard Burr who joined Trump on the campaign trail 2)The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired by Representative Devin Nunes who boldly defended Flynn and is regarded as being strongly pro-Trump 3) United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, which is chaired by Senator John McCain who is showing earnest concern and placing country before politics.  So, 1 out of 3 committees can be trusted to do an unbiased job of the investigation but per Duncan there is no need for an independent investigation.

  1. Trump is pro-Russia because Russia is fighting ISIS (while not stated the implication was that Obama was not fighting ISIS) and so the US needs to work with, to join Russia to fight ISIS in Syria.