Republicans Demand Transparency on Secret Negotiations to Bring 2,400 Refugees Rejected by Australia into U.S.

Penny Starr | December 7, 2016 | 3:35pm EST
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Syrian refugees mass at the Turkish border while they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, Monday, June 15, 2015. (AP Photo)

( – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chair their respective Senate and House Judiciary Committees, sent a letter on Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry asking them to declassify documents from their behind-closed-doors deal with Australia to admit 2,400 refugees into the United States that were rejected by that country.

This latest letter follows another on this issue sent last month.

“Last month, Chairmen Goodlatte and Grassley expressed concern that the Obama Administration’s secret negotiations with Australia left Americans in the dark about the full scope of its resettlement plans and requested a briefing to review the classified agreement,” the chairmen said in a press release distributed to the media. “It is unprecedented to classify an agreement to usher in refugees to the United States and the Chairmen’s review of the agreement further confirms that it should never have been classified in the first place.”

In their latest letter, the chairmen expressed concern about the homelands of these refugees and also that a “classified” refugee resettlement agreement was “unprecedented.”

“We write to follow up on our November 22, 2016 letter regarding the agreement between the United States and Australia for the United States to consider for admission as refugees, potentially over 2,400 migrants currently detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, whom Australia has refused to admit,” the letter said. “These migrants are nationals of countries like Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan, as well as others. 

“As you know, your agencies have deemed the agreement classified,” the letter said.  “This is despite the fact that classification of an agreement regarding individuals to be considered for admission by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is unprecedented.”

The letter also said that classified briefings for Congress are not enough and that the agreement should be declassified “so that the American people can read it.”   

“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,” the letter said. “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.”   

Grassley and Goodlatte asked Kerry and Johnson to respond to their request for declassification by Dec. 13 and said that if they refused to do so they should to provide justification for that decision.

See earlier story:

Obama Administration Agrees to Take Mideast Refugees Refused by Australia (Nov. 14, 2016)

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