After serving his last term as governor of Tennessee, Bredesen dabbled in “partisan politicking” and working to help other Democrats get elected:
As a loyal Democrat, Bredesen this year declared his support for President Obama’s re-election, endorsed the party’s 4th Congressional District nominee, Eric Stewart, and did “robo-calls” supporting a handful of legislative candidates such as former Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-Greeneville, who lost this week to Republican David Hawk.
Bredesen also chose to serve on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governors Council.
The mission statement of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., suggests that bipartisan analysis and consensus-based decision-making results in obviating any political bias from the BPC’s policy proposals.
On the issue of the United State’s refugee resettlement program, however, BPC analysts have repeatedly pushed the left’s narrative that “[r]efugees seeking admission to the United States undergo the most stringent security screening process for anyone entering the country.”
Three refugees living in the U.S. arrested last week for falsifying information in their immigration applications make claims about stringent refugee vetting less credible even though federal agencies have been aware of vetting obstacles for years.
As far back as 2008, the State Department discovered through random DNA testing that 80% of the thousands of Somalis, Ethiopians and Liberians who had applied for refugee status under the family reunification program, were not related to those they claimed as relatives. The rate and extent of the fraud was significant enough that the program was temporarily suspended.
Two Iraqi refugees originally resettled in Kentucky, remain imprisoned on terrorism-related charges after it was discovered that they lied on their immigration applications about being involved with Al Qaeda. Federal authorities had evidence of their activity in Iraq which was overlooked before admission as refugees was granted.
Last week, Mohamed Abdirahman Osman and Zeinab Abdirahman Mohamed, a husband and wife who entered the U.S. as refugees and were living in Arizona, were indicted on charges of lying on their applications that got them refugee status and later, their green cards. The indictment also alleged that the husband falsified information about his association with al-Shabaab, a U.S. designated terrorist group based in Somalia.
Iraqi refugee Omar Ameen, also arrested last week concealed his ties to ISIS and his alleged involvement in murdering an Iraqi police officer as part of an ISIS operation when he applied first for refugee status and later to obtain his U.S. green card.
A third arrest last week was Mergia Negussie Habteyes, an Ethiopian refugee indicted for concealing his role as a civilian interrogator in an Ethiopian prison and the alleged “persecution, through brutality, of individuals imprisoned because of their political opinion.”
A 2014 article about refugees in Sioux Falls reveals another challenge to refugee vetting. Ten of the eleven members of the Ahmed family featured in the article, report January 1 birthdays because they lack documentation of their actual birth dates. Only the two-year old who was born in the refugee camp has a birth record.
Although uniformly dismissed by refugee advocates and federal refugee resettlement contractors, the continuing problem of vetting refugee applicants received more serious attention when intelligence sources disclosed the high probability that ISIS would infiltrate the refugee program through the resettlement of Syrian refugees.
As early as October 2015, U.S. intelligence sources admitted to the inadequacy of data by which to vet refugees, particularly Syrian refugees:
- Former FBI Director James Comey “…we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”
- FBI Asst. Dir. Counterterrorism Division – Michael Steinbach – “You’re talking about a country that is a failed state, that does not have any infrastructure, so to speak.”
- USCIS, associate Dir. for Fraud Detection and National Security – Mathew Emrich – admitted to Congressional committee to having no databases by which to vet Syrian refugees and that, “[i]n many countries the U.S. accepts refugees from, the country did not have extensive data holdings.”
- Defense Intelligence Agency – Lt. Gen. Stewart – Islamic State extremists posing as refugees “will probably attempt to … direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”
- Secretary of Homeland Security – “In all candor, I do agree that the refugee flow coming out of Iraq and Syria represents a potential opportunity for terrorist organizations to move its members into other nations for potential attacks.”
Despite warnings from the intelligence community, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) papers downplay the potential security threat choosing instead the “stringent vetting” narrative voiced by refugee contractors and the Obama administration. At the time, the refugee contractors and Obama were looking to increase refugee admissions and specifically, admission of Syrian refugees:
The difficulties in vetting Syrian refugees are indeed why the process takes so long for Syrians and why many are being rejected. The U.S. government will not approve applications when they cannot ensure identity or security. Some refugee advocates express concern that this means that qualifying refugees with a lack of information are being denied.
Nonetheless, the threat from the U.S. refugee process should not be overstated. Of the nearly 1 million refugees admitted since 2001, not one has committed an act of terrorism in the U.S., and only three have been convicted of planningterrorist attacks on targets abroad (though none were successful). Additionally, denying refugees, sending them back, or forcing them to remain in refugee camps presents additional risks to U.S. security interests, as they are more likely to be radicalized in camps, and turning them away feeds into ISIS strategy and anti-Western narrative.
Contrary to the BPC’s report, the Obama administration increased the number of Syrian refugees to be admitted to the U.S. and coupled this decision with fast-tracked vetting of Syrian refugee applications by reducing it to three months from the typical 18 -24 months cited by BPC. Links in the BPC report rely on organizations and articles that support continued and increased refugee resettlement.
Congressional testimony by the Department of Homeland Security in the same timeframe as the BPC reporting confirmed that approximately 90% of refugee applications from Syrians were approved even in the absence of adequate vetting sources.
Also within the same timeframe that vetting concerns were being raised, a panel hosted by the BPC, The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Balancing Humanitarian and Security Challenges, was making the case for bringing more Syrian refugees to the U.S..
The panel included a representative from Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service (LIRS), one of the nine federally contracted organizations paid to resettle refugees in U.S. cities. As reported by Refugee Resettlement Watch, LIRS tax forms show that on average, it is funded 95% by taxpayer dollars. The agreement LIRS signs with the federal government requires LIRS to raise it’s own funding because taxpayer dollars are only supposed to “augment” the organization’s resettlement operations.
Obama’s State Department’s representative on the panel said that more money was needed for the refugee resettlement program because it is “an extremely expensive endeavor.”
Months before the BPC began looking at the challenges of refugee vetting, Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration & National Interest, were asking the Obama administration for immigration information related to 72 individuals admitted to the U.S., of whom a disproportionately large number were foreign-born, had naturalized or were children of foreign migrants and who had engaged in or attempted to engage in acts of terrorism or provided material support for planned terrorist acts.
Subsequent information gathering of the people identified in Sessions’ report showed that all 72 came from countries identified in President Trump’s executive order on vetting and 17 of them were admitted as refugees.
In advance of the annual presidential determination on the maximum number of refugees to be admitted in FY19, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Dick Durbin and 31 other senators issued a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen questioning the “severe drop in refugee admissions” resulting from President Trump having lowered the number in his FY18 determination.
Not only has the FY18 ceiling of refugee admissions not been reached, but it has been rumored that the FY19 ceiling for refugee admissions will be even lower.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) whose network of agencies across the country resettle the largest number of refugees admitted into the country, has begun campaigning for higher refugee numbers in FY19. USCCB’s latest financial statement from 2016, shows receipt of over $95 million dollars from the federal government for refugee resettlement services.
In light of his demonstrated preference for high refugee admissions, The Tennessee Star asked the Bredesen campaign the following:
Your record on immigration strongly suggests that you supported the refugee resettlement program. Recently, Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Dick Durbin, along with 31 other senators issued a letter to Secy of State Mike Pompeo and DHS Secy Kirstjen Nielsen questioning the severe drop in refugee admissions. The letter specifically stated that “refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the United States.”
Do you agree that refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the U.S.?
Were you given the opportunity to join with the 33 Democrat Senators who signed this letter would have also signed?
Are you concerned about the low level of refugee admissions?
No response was received from the Bredesen campaign.