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House Republicans caution Biden administration against weakening vetting of refugees

February 10, 2021

EXCLUSIVE: More than two dozen House Republicans on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to oppose efforts to weaken screening for immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S. over national security concerns.

"We are extremely concerned with the Biden Administration's plans to weaken screening and vetting for foreign nationals coming to the United States, including refugee applicants in the [U.S. Refugee Admissions Program] and other humanitarian-based U.S. immigration programs," the letter, signed by 26 House Republicans says.

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"These plans, as seen in a number of recent Executive Orders, will lead to the permanent resettlement in American communities of more refugees and other humanitarian-based immigrants — as promised by the Biden-Harris campaign — at the expense of our national security and public safety."

The letter includes Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Yvette Herrell, R-N.M.; Chip Roy, R-Texas; Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; and Bill Posey, R-Fla.

The letter comes after Biden moved to dramatically increase the number of refugees the U.S. takes in a year from 15,000 to 125,000. Part of that move would reportedly involve reducing vetting restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.

The U.S. is expected to return to the referral system by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The Republicans claim the order by Biden, in seeking to improve the "efficacy" of vetting is in fact an attempt to weaken screening.

The lawmakers note that the order on refugees revokes prior Trump-era orders, including one that directed the refugee program be administered in a risk-based manner. They accuse Biden of promoting fraud by encouraging remote interviews via video and audio.

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The lawmakers also claim that sections allow failed refugee applicants to review their case file, meaning that those applicants could "improve" their stories on appeal, and expands the definition of refugee to potentially include those displaced by climate change.

"Even worse, the Biden Administration's plan to weaken screening and vetting with the aim of resettling more refugees from abroad in American communities ignores the refugee crisis right under its nose," they say. "By this, we mean the backlog of more than 1.1 million asylum-seekers who already are inside the United States and who are awaiting adjudication of their claims."

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The letter requests a briefing on the administration's actions about vetting and refugees, and urgest both DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to oppose efforts to weaken screening, and to instead build on the moves made under the Trump administration.

It represents the latest concern by Republicans over the Biden administration's immigration moves. On Tuesday more than 50 Republicans warned President Biden of a brewing "crisis" of illegal migration at the southern border amid indications of a surge in numbers.