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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  October 7, 2015 5:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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many different countries. in a september 23rd "washington post" article this is what they r repo reported, quote, there are well-dressed iranians speaking farsi saying they are members of thed yaziris from iraq, there are egyptians and tunisians with countries with plenty of poverty and violence but no war. it would come as no surprise that many migrants seem to be pretending they are someone else. the prize after all is the possibility of benefits, residency and work in europe, close quote. so, we'll have that same problem here. and we do have that problem here. we must be cautious. the administration originally proposed a kreel iceiling of 75 refugees next year.
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then it said it planned to accept a floor of 85,000 refugees and at least 100,000 next year. once here -- with refugee status those individuals can claim any job and collect any federal welfare benefit. recent statistics from the department of health and human services office of refugee resettlement indicate that 75% of refugees receive food stamps and more than half receive free health care and cash benefits. for refugees from the middle east the numbers are even higher. more than 90% of recent middle eastern refugees draw food stamps and about 70% receive free health care and cash welfare. refugee settlement also comes with security risks as we have witnessed with the surge of isis recruitment among, for example, somali refugee communities in minnesota. anyone claiming to have a serious and honest discussion of
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refugee resettlement must ask the difficult questions about integration, how can we accomplish that. assimilation, and community safety. this is certainly true with respect to countries like syria where we have little or no information about who the people are. no background information. no ability to determine whether they are radicalized now or might become radicalized after their arrival in the united states. indeed, fbi assistant director for counterterrorism has testified that the united states did not have, quote, the systems in places on the ground, close quote, in syria to collect enough information to properly screen refugees. that's pretty obvious frankly. our subcommittee is currently investigating the scores of examples of refugees and asylums who go on to commit acts of terror or become involved with terrorist organizations. the economic and physical
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security of the american people must never be a secondary consideration.a álú with workers stagnant our entitlement programs on the verge of insolvency and our law enforcement struggling to combat radicalization and increasing crime and our schools and communities struggling to keep up, voters are rightly and justifiably wondering about their government's priorities. and how we should conduct our business, so what's what we'll explore today. senator durbin, i'm glad you can be with us. i know you're knowledgeable on these issues and once again i would like to thank our witnesses who lead the agencies who handle these difficult issues every day and we look forward to their testimony. senator durbin? >> thank you very much, chairman sessions. my mother was an immigrant. from lithuania. she was brought to america at the age of 2. with her brother and sister.
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my grandmother carried them off a boat in baltimore and put them on a train to what they considered to be the promised land, east st. louis, illinois. my grandmother didn't speak english very well. but she was determined to have a better life for her children and her family. she worked hard. our whole family worked hard, and as her son i ended up with a full-time job. when you reflect on my background, my family story, it isn't just mine. it's america's story. it's who we are. we are a nation of immigrants. on the issue of refugees, there are two members of the united states senate who are the sons of refugees. one is running for president of the united states. so, i want to put this in context when we talk about issues. we're talking about real lives and real people. and today we're talking about the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.
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this refugee crisis has almost 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. syria is the epicenter. when they asked me what i think of when you say the two words "vietnam war" instantly my first impression is a photo image of a little girl, a victim of napalm, naked running down a road toward the camera crying with her arms extended. what is my image of syrian refugees? 3-year-old syrian boy who drowned in the mediterranean. allen kurdi. i looked at that little corpse that washed up on the shore and thought that's my grandson. that's the image i take from the syrian refugee crisis. more than half of syria's 23 million people have been forced from their homes.
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more than 4 million syrians are registered as refugees including almost 2 million children. more than 10,000 syrian children have been killed. thousands are unaccompanied and separated from their parents. they're not economic migrants. they are refugees fleeing for their lives. the poet warson shaw who herself a refugee from somalia put it well when she wrote, no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. the syrian refugee crisis has placed great strain on many countries. the tiny country of lebanon population 4.2 million, now hosts 1.2 million registered syrian refugees. more refugees per capita than any country in the world. that's almost 30% of their population. and jordan, of course, going through the same type of strain. do we have any obligation in the united states? to face this?
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i think we do. history tells us we should. we've taken some positive steps to address this crisis. the united states is the most generous donor to the refugees of any nation in the world. we're providing safe haven to hundreds of syrian visitors in this country who were allowed to stay on a temporary basis when the war developed. after last year's hearing i held a hearing on syrian refugee crisis, the administration issued exemptions so they could stay and not return to the danger of syria. but so far the united states of america has accepted about 1,600 syrian refugees. 1,600. a small number. and may i join with senator klobuchar and 13 other senators and the administration to admit at least 65,000 by the end of 2016. administration is now looking at 10,000. why does it take so long?
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because our vetting process is very careful. it takes from 14 to 24 months after the initial interview for a refugee to end up in the united states.
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vietnam think maybe some 400,000 ended up coming to the united states. soviet jews who were allowed to come to this country to avoid persecution over 200,000. and let me add when it came to cuban refugees the numbers now are about 650,000 including as i mentioned earlier the fathers of two of our colleagues in the united states senate one of whom is running for president. we resettled more than 120,000 refugees from the former yugoslavia and the reason i want to raise that point because there's something that must be said. we're talking about many muslims who come to the united states and become an important part of our country. in my condo building in chicago, illinois, there are two bosnian
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muslims who are the hardest-working people i know. so proud of their families and proud to be part of this country. as we'll find here from groups that send us statements, including in particular a letter signed by 400 faith leaders expressing strong opposition to any effort to limit the resettlement of muslim refugees. let me just close by saying on an economic basis it's true, some of>7hzjqáq refugees come he dirt poor and need a helping hand. i met four of those families just two weeks ago in chicago. but the statistics will also tell us that that changes very, very quickly. as soon as they can command enough of the english language, they're off and working and working hard at some of the toughest jobs. some of them turn out to be pretty successful. the late general john shelly ksevili and sergey brin and andrew grove the pioneer of the semiconductor industry. i didn't mention steve jobs the son of a syrian immigrant.
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so, i would hope today that as we reflect on this issue we reflect on history. the last thing i'll say is i'd like to introduce the members of this subcommittee to mr. alustrom. are you here? thank you, sir. he fled syria in 2013 after his house was shelled by a missile from the syrian army. he moved into another house with five other families and that house was shelled and destroyed as well. he moved to another neighborhood but barrel bombs were being dropped on that neighborhood. he then fled syria with his wife and two children after a long and difficult journey through the desert he ended up in jordan where he applied for refugee status. after a long process he and his family came to the united states on june 16th this year. he now works two jobs. he moves furniture during the day and he's a baker at night in order to support his family. he's not a terrorist.
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he's not a fiscal drain on america. we should be proud that our country has welcomed him and his family. that is what our country's refugee settlement program is all about. i hope my colleagues in congress will come to understand that as a result of this hearing. thank you, sir. >> thank you, senator durbin. thank you for your guest that you introduced. we're looking to establish a good, sound policy and fulfill the united states' responsibility in this regard and that it does so in a smart and effective way. senator grassley, did you have an opening statement or -- >> i do have a statement i'm going to put in the record and it may be if time flies i -- >> mr. chairman? >> yes. >> okay. i'm going to have to leave a little early for something i committed to, but i just wanted to put my statement in the
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record as well. and i know that senator durbin mentioned the work that we've done to try to get more syrian refugees into our country. we've been moving at a very slow pace and just coming from a state that senator franken and i represent which is the home of so many refugees, we are so proud of our hmong population. we took in these hmong people who fought on our side in the war in vietnam and now they are integrated in our community and thriving. we have very strong liberian and somali populations and it's a major part of our state's fabric of life and i think people have to remember that when we talk about this issue because as senator durbin has said, 90 of our fortune 500 companies were formed by immigrants. 200 immigrants are kids of immigrants and 30% of our u.s. nobel lauer wrougreates were bo other countries, so i home we consider that when we think about this refugee issue. thank you, mr. chair. >> if the panel would stand and raise your right hand and take the oath. do you affirm that the testimony you're about to give before this
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committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? please be seated. i'll briefly introduce our witnesses for reference their full biographies are available on the committee's website. we have larry bartlett director of admissions for the bureau of population, refugees and migration at the department of state. mr. bartlett is a director of the refugee admissions office of the u.s. department of state's bureau of population refugees and migration. he previously served various state department leadership positions and served in a variety of capacities. next we have ms. barbara strack, chief of the refugees affairs division at the u.s. citizenship and immigration service. she joined the uscis as chief of refugees affairs division in 2005.8. a1p ms. strack previously held
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positions with the national immigration forum, the former immigration and naturalization service as counsel to a u.s. senate subcommittee and in private practice of law in washington, d.c., at melvaney and myers. and she's with the department of homeland security. next we have mr. matthew emerich acting associate director at the u.s. citizen. and immigration service. also with homeland security. before he was selected as acting associate director, he served as the deputy associate director of fdns and has over 21 years of immigration, law enforcement and intelligence experience. before his civilian government employment mr. emrich served for eight years on active duty in the u.s. marine corps in the counterintelligence and infantry fields. he also has worked in baghdad as
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a forward senior human intelligence analyst for the multinational forces iraq. finally we have mr. bob kerry director of the office of refugee resettlement. mr. kerry most recently served as viz president of resettlement and migration policy at the international rescue committee. leading the agency's advocacy on refugee, immigration and anti-trafficking and community development policy issues. he also served as chair of the refugee council usa. so, this is a good panel with much experience in it in lead key agencies that are critical to how we handle the refugee program. so, mr. bartlett, if you would, give us your opening statement. >> mr. chair, distinguished senators, thank you for holding this briefing and bringing attention to the importance of the u.s. refugee admissions program. thank you also for the opportunity to appear before you
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with my colleagues from the department of homeland security and health and human services. and to update you on the measures we've taken to protect refugees around the world and provide new homes to some of the most vulnerable. according to the united nations high commission for refugees latest statistics there are nearly 20 million refugees in the world. the vast majority of them will receive support in the countries to which they fled until they can voluntarily and safely return home. the united states contributes to the programs of unhcr, the international committee of the red cross, international organization for migration, and other international and nongovernmental organizations that provide protection and assistance to refugees until they can return home. in 2014, some 126,000 refugees volunteary repatriated to the country of origin the lowest recorded since 1983. a small number may be allowed to become citizens in the country
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to which they fled and an even smaller primarily those who are the most vulnerable, will be resettled in a third country. while unhrc reports that less than 1% of all refugees are eventually resettled in third countries the united states welcomes over half of these refugees. since 1975 americans have welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world. the united states refugee admissions program reflects the united states highest values and aspirations of compassion, generosity and leadership. resettlement opportunities are focused on refugees who have immediate needs for durable and lasting solutions. while maintaining our leadership role and humanitarian p*9 protection, an intgregral part the admission is to go to those who are known to be able to be resettled. accordingly our program is committed to deterring and
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detecting fraud. and applicants are subject to more intensive security than any other type of traveler to the u.s. to protect against threats to our national security. the department of state collaborates with the department of homeland security on this and also collaborates closely with the centers for disease control and prevention to protect the health of u.s.-bound refugees and the u.s. public. for the past three fiscal years the program has met its target for refugee arrivals, awn unprecedented achievement in the program's history. in 2016 the program will grow to serve 85,000 refugees at least 10,000 of whom will be syrians. in order to respond to the increased needs of the middle east. the program enjoys substantial support from states and local governments as well as from community members. the program resettles refugees to 48 states, 173 cities, and 304 sites. as a dl]nñpublic/private partne
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it requires the support of american nongovernmental organizations, charities, faith-based groups, and thousands of volunteers and supporters of the program in hundreds of communities across the country. recently the department of state has received -- individuals, churches and community organizations wishing to help with syrian refugee resettlements. with continued support of congress and the american people, refugee resettlement will remain a proud tradition for many years to come. thank you. >> ms. strack? >> chairman sessions, ranking member durbin and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the refugee corps a cadre of specially trained officers who are dedicated to adjudicating applications for refugee status overseas. i've been honored to serve as
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the chief of the refugees affairs division over these ten years to work with this talented staff who are equally committed to the humanitarian mission of offering resettlement opportunities to refugees while safeguarding the integrity of our program and our national security. this program is consistently benefitted from the support of colleagues throughout dhs as a whole including the asylum corps and international staff and fraud detection and national security directorate. as reflected by this panel today, we also work closely across departments. the refugee resettlement program has forged strong and deep relationships with colleagues in the law enforcement, national security, and intelligence communities and we continue to benefit enormously from their expertise, annal jalysis and collaboration. it simply would not be possible to support a resettlement program of the size and scope that the u.s. maintains today without the critical infrastructure. as you know the united states has a proud and long tradition
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of offering protection, freedom and opportunity to refugees from around the world who live in fear of persecution and are often left to languish in difficult conditions of temporary asylum. we remain dedicated to fulfilling this mission as an integral part of this is to ensure that refugee resettlement opportunities go to those who are eligible for such protection and do not present a risk to the safety and security of our country. accordingly we're committed to deterring and detecting fraud among those seeking to resettle and we continue to employ the highest security measures to protect against risks to our national security. my written testimony describes in detail the screening measures and safeguards that have been developed by our program and enhanced over time. while nanny of these enhancements were first deployed in connection with the iraqi refugee resettlement program they're now being applied more broadly to applicants of all nationalities including syrians who represent a growing portion of our caseload. this entails biographic and biometric security checks and a receive fufgy applicant is not
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approved for travel until the results of all required security checks have been obtained and cleared. in addition to security checks we conduct individual, in-person interviews with applicants to determine their eligibility for refugee status. recognizing that well-trained officers play a critical role in protecting the integrity of the refugee process we provide great emphasis on providing the highest quality training to our adjudicators. it involves detailed training on specific refugee populations including special training on the iraqi and syrian caseloads in which outside experts from the intelligence, policy and academic communities participate. in every instance officers assess the credibility of applicants and evaluate whether the applicant's testimony is consistent with known country conditions. given the wide geographic scope of the u.s. refugees admission programming including remote and sometimes difficult u.s., we coordinate closely with prm, to schedule refugee interviews every quarter of the fiscal
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year. in a typical quarter we'll deploy over 100 staff and up to 16 or 17 different locations. as a result of these carefully coordinated operations as you've heard from mr. bartlett, we've succeeded in meeting the refugee admission ceiling of 70,000 for a third year in a row. looking forward to fiscal year 2016, uscis is prepared to work closewy the state department and other inner agency partners to support you up to 85,000 refugees. we'll continue to stream line our operations while maintaining the integrity of our program and national security. when i meet with new officers joining the refugee corps i talk to them about the united states long-standing tradition of offering protection to those fleeing persecution. i work at our work as being the stewards of this tradition for this time and generation. we're committed to meeting this responsibility and preserving this american hallmark. in closing i would like to thank
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the subcommittee for this opportunity to testify and i'd be happy to answer your questions. >> thank you, ms. strack. mr. emrich? >> thank you, chairman sessions, ranking member durbin, and other distinguished senators for the opportunity to update you on the measures we're taking to ensure the security of the u.s. refugee admissions program. in addition to the security checks that my colleagues have described and that's in our written testimony, that apply to nationality, uscis has begun an additional layer of syrian applicants. it's performed by headquartered base e based. i'd like to describe the role of fdns. also within the d.c.-based element of the fraud detection and national security directorate as the intelligence division which is close and regular contact with our dhs
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intelligence community partner, the dhs office intelligence and analysis. other dhs components and intelligence community member agencies. fdns has full-time liaison officers stayinged at the fbi headquarters national joint terrorism task force, interpol and the fbi terrorist screening center. we rely on these everyday connections to share information with our law enforcement and intelligence departments at the headquarters level both proactively and when asked and these connections also reinforce the established information-sharing agreements that exist within the security check rubric. before refugee applicants are scheduled for interview a refugee officer in the field, syrian cases are reviewed at cis headquarters by a refugees affairs division officer. all cases that meet certain criteria are referred to the headquarters based staff that i mentioned earlier for additional research and review.
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fdns intelligence analysts conduct open source and classified research on referred cases and synthesize an assessment for use by the interviewing officer. it provides case-specific context providing country conditions and regional activity and is used by the interviewing officer to inform lines of inquiry related to the applicant's eligibility and credibility. throughout this review -- review process of syrian refugee applicants fdns engages with law enforcement and intelligence community members to obtain additional clarifying information, to assist in identity verification or to deconflict to ensure our activities will not adversely affect ongoing law enforcement investigations. when fdns identifies terrorist-related information it nominates an individual orindividuals to the terrorism watch list using standard interagency protocol or provides additional information to existing recording. additionial intelligence analysts draft reports that alert u.s. law enforcement agencies and the intelligence
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community of information that meets standing intelligence requirements. we work very closely with the dhs office of intelligence analysis and our many law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify options for new potential screening opportunities to enhance the existing process. we are doing this constantly. in addition to the checks that i've described, refugee applicants who travel to the united states are screened at the port of entry as is the case with all individuals who travel to the united states. the screening at the port of entry is conducted by customs and border protection and transportation security administration. the humanitarian crisis in the middle east is severe and my staff and i are reminded on almost a daily basis of the strife and atrocities that have been occurring in this area, that have been occurring for some time and are occurring now. we are committed to always -- to maintaining and always seeking to enhance a thorough screening effort in close coordination with our partners so that we may maintain the integrity of the program and our national
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security. i look forward to your questions. >> mr. kerry? >> chairman sessions and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify on the department of health and human services responsibilities and facilitating the resettlement of refugees in the united states. in my testimony today i will describe the role that hhs plays in the refugee resettlement program. the refugee act of 1980 established the office of refugee resettlement within hhs and outlined the united states commitment to humanitarian relief through the resettlement of persons fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. since the passage of the act over 3 million refugees from more than 70 countries have been provided safe haven in the united states, along with the possibility of a new beginning and freedom from persecution and displacement. the departments of homeland
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security, state, and hhs work together to advance america's humanitarian response to refugees through the u.s. refugee admissions program. in fiscal year 2014, literally 140,000 individuals were eligibility for resettlement services through our programs. these programs assist refugees, asylum seekers and cuban and haitian entrants and victims of torture, foreign-born victims of human trafficking and special immigrant visa holders to become employed and self-sufficient as soon as possible after their arrival. we carry out the mission to serve refugees through grants and services administered by state governments and nonprofit organizations at an extensive public/private partnership network. our grants are designed to facilitate refugees' successful transition and integration into life in the united states. refugees arrive with distinct
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skills and experiences and we strive to provide the benefits and services necessary to leverage those assets and talents. our funds support and transitional time limited support for medical services for individuals not eligible for other public benefits through programs administered by states and nonprofit organizations, we provide cash and medical assistance to eligible populations for up to eight months after their arrival in the u.s. in addition, the funds foster care programs for unaccompanied refugee minors, certain minors granted special immigrant juvenile status and unaccompanied minor victims of a severe form of human trafficking. we provide funds to state governments and private nonprofit agencies to support social services including english language instruction, employment services, case management, social adjustment services and interpreter services. these funds are allocated to states based on a formula to two prior years of arrival which
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accounts for refugees movement to othery initial settlement as well. we support economic development activities that focus on financial literacy, establishing credit, matched savings and support of business starts, educational goals, car purchases essential to employment and business start-ups that in turn employ thousands of individuals. a portion of new entrants participate in the voluntary agency matching grant program rather than the refugee cash assistance program. through this program voluntary resettlement agencies provide services to help refugees become employed and self-sufficient within their first four months in the u.s. in fiscal year 2014, the program served 30,000 individuals and reported economic self-sufficiency rates of 76% for receive fuf jiffs at 180 days after arrival. given the proven success of the program the president's budget proposed a $22 million increase to the 2016 matching grant
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program to serve an additional 10,000 individuals. finally i would like to share with you the story of one refugee. he was 28 when his family was forced to flee their homeland in northern iraq when the u.s. military began its withdrawal due to family members' employment with american forces and related threats to their lives. starting over was challenge for him as well as all refugees. he applied for over 100 jobs in st. louis while attending english language classes. his first job in the u.s. was working at a local grocery store. three years later he has opened a car dealership. his mission is to provide fellow immigrants with affordable and reliable used cars. he employs a number of other individuals. and he now is helping other refugees and individuals from communities to buy their first cars. his determination to succeed is representative of the determination i see in so many of the refugees who arrive in our country, despite
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unimaginable hardships, violence and oppression, they arrive seeking opportunity, not hand-outs, and an opportunity to give back to their communities, achieve the american dream. hhs programs assist refugees and other vulnerable populations to do just that. i welcome your interest in the u.s. refugee resettlement program at hhs. thank you for the opportunity to discuss our work. and i would be happy to answer any questions. >> thank you, mr. kerry. you mentioned a receifugees and special programs that are akin to refugees and that totals 140,000 that you have responsibility for? >> yes, sir. >> that includes the 85,000 refugees? >> these numbers are from 2014 and the current year they include responsibility for 75,000 refugees. >> and so about an equal number more than that.
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you also mentioned self-sufficiency. would you define self-sufficientfy to include government assistance reports, do you not? >> the matching grant sel self-sufficient as what? >> 180 days after arrival. >> but they may be eligible for food stamps and medicaid and other assistance programs, isn't that correct? >> refugees are admitted as legal permanent residents and they are eligible for any benefits -- or adjust to legal permanent resident status after one year but during their time of assistance they are eligible as other individuals would be during their first eight months in the united states. >> i'm just trying to clarify because i think we all need to fully understand it. as i understand it from 2008 through 2013, refugees from the middle east, for example, 91%
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are eligible and receive s.n.a.p., food stamp benefits and high percentages receive cash benefits, tanif, housing benefits and medicaid. is that correct? >> i believe -- >> do you deny those statistics? they're government statistics. >> the figures include refugees who are receiving benefits during their initial resettlement period as provided through orr and states and local governments. >> my understanding is that through that five-year period, which is a long period, you had a very high subsidy rate and i just think we should know that because when they come in, you provide assistance to help them get established, but they are immediately then eligible for the same aid programs that we provide american citizens. and that most of them will be starting at lower incomes and become eligible for health care and other benefits.
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mr. bartlett, in general, you know, it's important for us to try to ask my staff to make sure how does this thing really work. maybe you would be the one to ask. refugees typically go i understand about 90% to the u.n. who then send -- give them some sort of number or -- and send them, at least some of them, to the united states, nine resettlement offices around the globe, is that right? >> mr. chair, let me explain. first of all, unhcr, the u.n. high commission for refugees is our largest partner overseas. we provide substantial funding to that agency and i think as you and others have mentioned, it's important that we assist refugees overseas, not just about bringing them here. it's about helping them and helping them to have an opportunity to go home should that occasion present itself. so, we do work heavily through
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unhcr, they have offices in all refugee hosting countries around the world and so they are our primary partner and -- if i could just -- so, one of the things i would like to say in response to helping people overseas. the u.s. government has provided $4.5 billion since the beginning of the syrian crisis to do just that. to help refugees, number one, survive -- >> does some of that go -- count as the u.n. money? >> absolutely. >> or in addition to the u.n. money? >> it goes primarily to the u.n., international red cross, and international organization for migration and a host of ngos that are operational. we work through those partners because they are the ones who actually know how to do the jobs. >> we are the largest contributor, is that correct? >> that's correct. and it is with the intent that people, number one, want to go home, which they do, and that they will be able to do so. but there does come a point in time where the strain on the hosting countries, and jordan and turkey,lebanon, obviously
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the big three, becomes immense and we want to do our part in resettlement. so at that point in time the unhcr because they have field-level people working in camps or urban areas or they have ngos doing that, identify specific peoples, specific families, who they consider most vulnerable. so, we're looking to -- >> well, i was just trying to get after overview. >> okay. >> the u.n. would send it to your people. you would then evaluate them or at least take information from them. then it goes to homeland security. who does background checks and interview, personal interviews, is that correct? my time is getting -- >> yes, sir, that's correct. >> i don't want to keep my colleagues waiting. but that's basically right. and then they are checked there indices which are virtually nonexistence, mr. emrich. i know you've got a good plan there. but there's no place to check. as we'll establish later.
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and then if they are approved, airfare is provided to the united states. >> sir, if i could just say, not only do they have to go through security checks but also through medical exams and we do that in part for the health of the refugees but also the health of the united states to make sure they are not importing contagious diseases and the airfare frankly is provided as a loan to the refugee and the refugee once they arrive signs a promissory note to pay back the loan and over the course of about ten years we have an 80% repayment rate. and that money goes back into future refugee programs. >> so, thank you, colleagues. we'll go to the next questions. and, mr. kerry, we don't want to -- we just need to be aware that when we talk about the cost of the program and we have a billion dollar cost, colleagues, we're not talking about the new stress on medicaid, food stamps, schools, hospitals, the housing
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allowances that they may be entitled to and other costs of that kind. that has not been provided. isn't that correct? you're not estimating that, mr. kerry? >> orr's budget for assistance to refugees during fiscal year 2015 is $585 million, after one year refugees adjust to permanent resident status. and they are then eligible for services on a means tested basis in the communities in which they're resettled. >> actually, they're eligible for those immediately, are they not? or do they have to wait a year before they become eligible for food stamps or medicaid? >> they are eligible for services for eight months under the orr program. and then if they -- then they are eligible as any other resident, legal resident, would be. >> thank you. i believe mr. tillis.
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>> thank you, mr. chair, for calling this important meeting, and thank you all for being here and for your service, past and present. i want to go back to trying to understand whether or not we have the resources and the coordination that's necessary to do this safely. but before i do, i can't help but point out that a lot of this crisis is created, if we talk about the syrian situation, but we're talking about far beyond that, this is 10,000 or so syrian refugees. but in the case of syria, it's because we have a despotic regime in the way of bashar al ass assad, and i think a policy there that has finally led the syrian people to believe they simply cannot live within a sense of comfort and safety in this country. it's a humanitarian disaster. it's already playing out in the hundreds of thousands. if you go to jordan and see the second largest city there now is a refugee camp with a number of syrians in it. if you take a look at what the eu's doing, this is a crisis, and i think in some part it's a
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crisis because of failed policies that the united states have in the region trying to stabilize it. now, president kerry said that we were going to increase the number of refugees from 70,000 in fiscal year 2015 to 75,000. and then a couple weeks later he said that that number may be 85,000. it could go as high as 100,000. and that he was more or less setting a floor of 10,000 for the syrians in particular, but we know that this discussion is about a larger number. somewhere between, let's say, 85,000 and 100,000. i'm trying to get the math to work. i don't think any of you have been told that your resources are being increased proportionate to the number of refugees that you're going to have to work on, whether it's the department of state, the department of homeland security, or the department of health and human services.
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so, at the most fundamental level, i'm trying to figure out how you absorb this within the current rate of funding that you have without something giving. and one of those things that may give could be the very important thing that we all have an obligation to ensure, and that's the safety and security of the homeland. there's a lot of vetting that has to occur. there are going to be handoffs between the various agencies. how do we make sure with this increased workload and increased pressure to help the refugees that we don't make a mistake that could potentially put our homeland at risk? and i'll start with anyone in the agency who would like to go first. maybe homeland security. >> i was going to start with the numbers because that's programs the easier part of the question and we'll go to the security vetting. just to be clear, yes, our goal, our target, our ceiling, whatever you want to call it for the fiscal year, the one we just
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started, is 85,000. within that 85,000 we're driving to admit 10,000 syrians. that's not a cap. >> mr. bartlett, the only clarification i have is secretary kerry said that it's a ceiling -- it's not a ceiling, it's a floor, so that suggests to me language that could anticipate more over time. >> i -- the president signed a determination earlier this week for 85,000. i think if that were to be ralez ralez raised that would need to be re-signed at a higher number. the aspiration is 100,000 refugees in fy-'17. but the state department resources we know it would take more to bring in 85,000 refugees. we are looking across our programs to see where we can gain efficiencies. i can assure you on our side there will be no shortcuts on security. there will be no shortcuts on medical screenings. there will be no shortcuts on processing. so, we will be having
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discussions about budgetary needs in the future, but at the moment in time there will be no shortcuts in terms of our responsibilities to the american people. >> ms. strack? >> thank you. at a planning level, we had anticipated that these refugee ceiling for fy-'16 was likely going to rise to 75,000. so, as an operational person and for planning purposes, i had anticipated an increase from 70,000 to 75,000. you're probably aware we at uscis are in an unusual situation in that we are a fee-funded agency. so, the money that supports my program, the resources that support my program, are paid by applicants for other immigration benefits. so, everyone who applies for a green card or applies for a naturalization, a piece of that fee supports the refugee and asylum programs at uscis. having spoken to our office of chief financial officer, he has
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informed us that there is sufficient funding in what's called our examination fee account to cover the 85,000 anticipated a missions in fy-'16 by reprioritizing between programs. but i'd like to reiterate, as mr. bartlett said, in no way are we cutting any corners, are we changing the security checks or cutting back on the elements that we think are integral to the integrity of the program. >> i would just like to echo what mr. bartlett and ms. strack has said regarding the security checks. we will not cut corners. the security check requirements were developed in the inner agency with the consultation and expertise of the fbi, our dhs partners, and the intelligence community partners and this the
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security regime was set up with all that input. and i have heard no discussion of making any cuts to it for any reason. i would like to point out that the grant -- grants of refugee status are discretionary, so that if there is a doubt, the case is referred for further review and if there's a national security concern, that individual's application a denied. >> as the refugee situation continues to evolve, the administration is assessing orr's capacity and resource needs for fiscal year 2016, with an increased number of refugees, it will be important to preserve currently available resources and fund this out at a sufficient level. >> mr. chair, if i may just one question related to accountability. mr. bartlett, i understand that you're working with the decisions that have been made.
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but it does seem to me that if we went from 75,000 to 85,000 over a couple of weeks, given the growing crisis, a serious cry says, where people's lives are at stake, that it's going to go up again, we cannot only answer this question in the context of the current commitment we've made but the likely commitment we will make going forward. and i -- i share some of the chair's concerns about the ongoing cost. and more than anything else, before this committee i have had to have the sad discussion about an immigration decision that led to a young man that murdered people in my city of charlotte because the handoff wasn't done properly. it was someone who was granted deferred status. it's not specific to this, but it speaks to the various agencies working together, using the data effectively. in this case it resulted in the deaths of people in my home
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city, just 20 minutes from where i live. so, i'd like to know that as you move forward and you all have individual pieces, you're passing the baton in many cases, who ultimately value individual pieces, you're passing the baton, who ultimately owns the responsibility as we go through and process 85,000 or 100,000 or 120,000? what agency or who ultimately owns the responsibility if we have to come back and there is a lapse? mr. chair, that's my final question. thank you for your indulgence. >> the responsibility for actually adjudicating a refugee petition, it's one of or forms, the form i-590. that responsibility falls to uscis. so we approve that. we would not approve it if we have derogatory information on that application. and as mr. emrick mentioned, we also have decision so we can deny a case when we feel that's
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appropriate even if there's not a derogatory security check, but there's information we think makes that individual not a good candidate to come to the united states. there is another check when the applicant arrives at the airport, our colleagues at custom and border protection, the inspectors at the airport, can also make a decision at that point whether to admit based on the fact that the applicant already has an approved refugee status. >> senator, if i could say one thing about the bill from 78 to 85. this program is certainly not linear. we have been planning for 75. now we're planning for 85. we will be building the program during, throughout the year so that arrivals will be peaking toward the end of the fiscal year, not at the beginning. so we will have an opportunity to review how we do this to make it more efficient. and as the fact, more effective than it is now. >> you make a very valid point. if we go to 100,000, that's
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going to -- the next year as proposed, and secretary kerry, our former colleague, told us in consultation with the judiciary committee last week that it would be substantially increased over the 85,000, he thought. he frankly told us that. this is not the bottom numbers. and the problems we are facing from security is here now. this is not just scare tactics. i'm reading a minneapolis paper, interviewing a coach with a lot of kids playing ball. the coach is ahmed ismail. he says, "there are monsters out there," and goes on to say more than 20 young men left this somali immigrant community from 2007 to 2009 to join al shabaab, an al qaeda affiliate operating in the war-torn land their parents fled. in the past year, disappearances
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began again. this time to the islamic state terrorists fighting in iraq and syria. so i'm just saying we need -- we know this is serious. mr. emrick, you don't have the ability to do efficient checks on these, as we'll talk about later. senator perdue, thank you for being with us. thank you for giving me this moment to make that point. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'll be brief. i really appreciate calling this hearing. i know that congress has a responsibility, and the president does, as well, that we review this every year. i was chagrinned to learn we haven't done it since 1979. i thank you for doing this. and i thank the witnesses for being here today. i have a couple quick questions. mr. emrick, we have a perfect case study here in iraq where there were systemic problems in the screening of iraqi refugee applicants here. at a recent hearing, the fbi assistant director, michael
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steinbach told the house homeland security, i'm quoting this, "the administration has learned its lesson," since the problems it had with the iraqi refugee admissions effort. can you tell us what specific measures in your agency have been taken to remedy the problems that -- and what did we learn from that exercise that we can apply here? >> so let me briefly describe the -- [ inaudible ] sorry. let me just briefly describe the nature of the checks we do now and how they've changed. so the checks are multilayered. they involve both biographic information and not just one data element but multiple
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biographic data elements and fingerprints. so biometric data. the checks are done not just at one time. they're done over a period of time. and in some cases, continuously throughout the process. they touch against a broad range of u.s. government holdings. so our biometric check, our fingerprint checks against fbi fingerprint holdings, it checks against dod fingerprint holdings which include fingerprints that have been obtained overseas. and it also checks against the dhs fingerprint system which contains records of any time someone has passed through a u.s. border, their fingerprints are captured, and they go to the dhs system. >> can i interrupt you? i'm sorry to do this because i want to hear the rest of this. in iraq, we also had background checks. and actually talked to people on the ground in iraq, when we had a lot of troops on the ground
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and a lot of people in iraq. we don't have that in syria. so is that not going to create a tremendous shortfall in data in addition to the technical checks you're talking about? >> so we have added a specific interagency check since the time that we were in iraq. and we can brief you on that in detail in another setting. but the -- another additional thing that we've done for this population is the enhanced review that i described. so the individual comes in contact at first, the refugee applicant comes in contact with unhcr. he provides a story, and at that time, all of his family members and the applicant -- i'm saying he, it could be she -- the principal applicant is registered ads register ed as do the family members. then that individual is interviewed again at the rsc. so by the time our folks are
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reviewing the application, they've already been talked to twice. they have had a very good incentive to provide accurate information to the unhcr. that's how at that registration, that's how they get food rations and housing for the most part. so i don't want to discount the importance of the interview here because this is the face-to-face encounter where the refugee officers have been specially trained in the country in country conditions. they know what questions to ask an individual who is leaving syria. they know what questions to ask about military service, what questions to ask about -- about possible bars. and we look at if they're are national security concerns there, we look at the consistency of all those encounters. that gives us an opportunity to ask additional questions.
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so we have individuals with a lot of expertise who can inform questions there. >> okay, thank you. i need to go into this last question. is there any other major priority you want to make -- point you want to make? thank you. i apologize, bike out of time. i just want to get back to one thing, the definition of a refugee. if someone leaves syria -- look, we know there's a major humanitarian crisis there. we know that. we've been talking in the senate about the causes of that. what i'd like to do, if someone leaves syria and goes to turkey and go a year, then they don't like turkey and apply to the u.s., are they by definition considered a syrian refugee for u.s. consideration in our process? >> i think i have to defer to dhs. they make the final determination. >> the definition of a refugee is contained in the refugee convention -- >> i understand -- >> -- and u.s. law closely tracks that. so basically looking at whether a person has a -- has suffered
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past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of one of the protected grounds which is race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. however, there is a bar under u.s. law to vetsds fundamental an individual has -- to resettlement if an individual has firmly resettled in another country. there's quite a bit of law around what it means to be firmly resettled. if are you living in precarious circumstances, if you're not able to work, if your children can't go to school, if you're in a tenuous circumstance, that does not amount to firm vetsds. even if you -- firm resettlement even if you have been in a country for a long time. it's a fact-specific circumstance. a short way of thinking about it is if you have the rights similar to what a green card holder would have in the united states, that you can live and work indefinitely, that starts looking like firm resettlement. we would investigate that on an individual basis and look at what the laws are in the country
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of first asylum. >> one last quick question -- i apologize, mr. chairman. of all the refugee application, how many are accepted versus rejected, would you say, in a given year? percentage? >> worldwide, our average approval rate is about 80%. right now it's higher than that for syrian applicants. but it's likely to come down. right now it's running a little over 90% for syrian applicants. but that percentage is based on all the cases that have been decided yes and no, what it leaves out is cases that are still under review, still on hold. we think a number of those hold cases when they're finally decided are going to turn into denials. so when we have a little more experience with thecaseload, we expect the rate will come down. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. this is very important. i read in my opening statement what the europeans were finding where you had the nice-dressed
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iranian speaking farsi saying he's from iraq, indians who don't speak arabic but say they're from damascus, pakistanis, albanians, egyptians, kosovar, tunisians apparently trying to get in as syrian refugees. we're now approving 90% of those who apply. here in the "washington post" article, it goes on to say -- had one story, there are shady characters in the group, too. admitted criminals, islamic state sympathizers, a couple of guys from fallujah, iraq. one from -- with a fresh bullet wound who when asked his occupation seemed confused. army, said one. his friend corrected him -- we're drivers. the refugees report that a forged syrian passport can be bought on the turkish border for as little as $2 hundred.
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a reporter from "the daily mail," brought a syrian -- bought a syrian passport, i.d. card, and driver's license for $2,000 in turkey under the name of a real man who was killed in the conflict. so you face a difficult problem. and the former head of the association of cisi officers has told us that the agency's become a rubber stamp, that there's no way they have the ability to do what's asked of them. and mr. emrich, i know you say you haven't changed any of your procedures, but the procedures just are not going to do the job. let's talk about that, honestly about it. the director of national intelligence, mr. clapper, recently stated, "we don't put it past the likes of isil to infiltrate operatives among these refugees." he further stated, it is a huge concern of ours."
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do you think that he's correct? do you disagree with that? >> i guess i'd like to talk to you about what our process is. >> no -- i'm asking, are you concerned? he said, "we don't put it past isil to infiltrate operatives in those refugees. it's a huge concern for us." you and mr. emrich are supposed to be evaluating those people. is it a concern for you? do you think that's a danger? >> yes, sir, that's a concern for us. i think that's what informs, that's the background that's the relationship we have with the intel community. so they share information with us about what they see as risks. and what we've been describing to you as the methods and the procedures that we have to try to mitigate those risks. could i speak briefly to the document issue? >> okay. >> and i know larry wanted to discuss this, as well.
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we think there's a difference between -- we are not working in europe. we are not resettling refugee applications out of europe. we're working primarily in jordan and in turkey. i think the incentives for other nationalities, for non-syrians, is different in those countries of first asylum as a first piece. the second piece is i did want to say we don't rely on any single document. in general, worldwide, we see quite a difference between refugee populations, some of which are very highly documented and some of which because of the nature of their refugee experience don't have a lot of documents. we think documents are informative. we look at them, but no single document is taken as a gold ticket for a refugee approval. >> i'm sure that's true. we also were told there are -- european officials stated not long ago that a million in north africa waiting to cross the
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mediterranean. so there are a lot of people that would like to become a refugee to the united states or europe. and it's -- you have to sort through them. what if they don't have any documents? a lot of people don't have any documents. what do you refer to then? >> in general, again, as i mentioned, we found with syrian refugees -- and i would say the same is true with iraqi refugees -- in general, they have many, many documents. what we do, the process mr. emrich described and our training, we involve the law enforcement community, intelligence community, we invite them in to train our refugee officers and to talk to them about country conditions information. if someone doesn't have documents,xample, they might tell us my documents were destroyed when a barrel bomb fell on my house. we'll ask when and where that happened, and we can check with intelligence community or often open-source information to find fought that's realistic. was that happening at that place
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at that time. so we have a multifaceted approach to this. we've actually reduced the number of interviews we ask our officers to do of syrian cases because we recognize that they are so complex. and we want the officers to be able to explore all of that information, often informed by the up-frontvillized vilindivid information -- >> i'm not doubting your dedication to try to do right with the ability that you have, but in february 11th, before the house committee on homeland security, fbi assistant director of the fbi michael steinbach expressed significant concerns with screening syrian refugee. i don't see how this can be denied. i don't see how you can gloss over this. he says, "the concern in syria is that we don't have systems in places on the ground to collect information to vet." that would be the concern is we
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would be vetting data bases that don't hold information on those individuals, and that is the concern. he went on to say, "you're talking about a country that is a failed state. that is, does not have any infrastructure so to speak. so all of the data sets, the police, the intel services, that normally you would go to to seek information don't exist." mr. emrich, you query these systems systems. is that your responsibility? yes or no? do you supervise making the inquiries? >> i do. >> and if there's no data base to query, how can you have valid information? >> there is data that we took against, and we'd be happy to describe this to you in a different setting. >> you just tell us under oath. you're a public official. do you think there's adequate data when you query these databases, are you likely to
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have any valuable information from them? >> i will tell you that we often find valuable information and that we check every single thing that is available -- >> i'm sure you check everything that's available. but mr. steinbach, i think, is making the plain fact that there are no real databases in syria to check. isn't that right? >> we check -- we check everything that we are aware of within u.s. government holdings. we are either inquiring about looking into or we currently check. >> all right. >> so as far as -- as far as i'm concerned, if we haven't overturned every stone, we are in the process of overturning every stone. >> there you go again. we're turning over everything that we can overturn. i don't deny that.
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american police officers checks national crime information center on everybody they arrest. but they don't have a national crime information center. you don't have access to their criminal history records. those are in assad's -- i guess -- control. they don't have a computer database that you can access. isn't mr. steinbach telling the truth? do you disagree with what i read from him that the things that you would normally check just don't exist? >> i would point out that the -- in many countries of the world from which we have traditionally accepted refugees over the years, the united states government did not have extensive data holdings. >> all right. mr. franken? i'm sorry to run over. thank you. not too badly.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. any time. ms. strack, in prior years we've admitted far more refugees than we currently do. in 1980, we admitted about 200,000 refugees. in the early '90s, we admitted over 100,000 per year. last year, in midst of a humanitarian crisis, we admitted fewer than 70,000. so it seems to me that the numbers we are bringing in today are pretty modest by comparison. it also seems to me that our past experience has demonstrated that we can resettle refugees in a manner that is consistent with our national security. ms. strack, what do you draw from our past experiences in
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admitting refugees, and can you describe the measures in place that ensure that those admitted to the united states will contribute positively to our society? >> senator, i think there may be several of us on the panel who would like to speak to your question. i think -- i think it's important to remember in the immediate aftermath of the september 11 attacks, there was a pause in refugee resettlement. it was a desire to make sure that the best screening available was in place in the wake of that situation. so for two years, the united states refugee resettlement program had very, very low numbers. i would say those of us who work in this field for a living consider disappointingly low numbers. but it was necessary at the time to make sure that those appropriate safeguards were in place. i think>h&p having those safegu in place, we have worked very
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diligently on an interagency basis. and again, with strong relationships with law enforcement, national security, and intelligence community so that we are able to have the program grow in a way that we think is responsible. has integrity, and it's consistent with our national security obligations. >> anyone else care to jump in on that? >> sir, i would just say that in addition to 9/11, i think with the iraq response and resettlement response to iraqis and the obligation that i think that we owed to many those -- all those iraqis who worked for us, we also layered on a new check. that was a moment in time when a new check was developed with two different security agencies. and that also impacted our arrivals. again, we did that out of a sense of responsibility to the people that -- not only the people that we're bringing here, but the people we're bringing them to our community. so i think you're correct that
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we've had larger programs in the past. in response, i think the infrastructure we work with now is a little more complicated. we are -- the intention is to not only grow this 89,000 program to 100. perhaps in years beyond we will see. now do it in a way that's responsible to our communities. >> before i run out of time, i want to ask this question which i think speaks to the whole hearing, the whole subject, in a different way. i'm not sure if anyone's asked. this i'm sorry i gave down to the floor and gave a speech on something else. i think it bears repeating that approximately four million people have fled violence in syria, and that's roughly 17% of the country's total population. of course, those that are
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internally displaced. families, many of them with children, are braving the treacherous journeys in order to escape persecution. senator durbin brought up alon kurdy, and that picture that i don't think anyone who's seen it will ever forget. and like senator durbin, i have a grandson vetted that that image reminded me very much of. i think, you know -- and also senator durbin, do you mind iffi a few seconds over? >> no. >> thank you -- >> you do? i'll go as fast as i can. sorry. okay. i never know when you're kidding.
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[ laughter ] [ inaudible ] >> i just want to know why he got the louder laugh. [ laughter ] >> timing. [ laughter ] >> this is such a sober subject. many of our partners in the e.u. are form laulating -- going to redistribute some 120,000 migrants, among them germany has stepped up. the u.s. on the other hand thus far has accepted only 1,500 syrian refugees. although the administration plans to expand the number to 10,000, i've joined in colleagues, senator durbin
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mentioned the that's right he and senator klobuchar read -- i was on that letter. th this was quite a while ago, urging the administration to resettle 65,000 by the end of 2016. this is what i want to ask -- i think these numbers important in the context of the debate about national security. director bartlett, do you think that strong leadership from the united states on this issue would boost our standing in the region? and shouldn't we be concerned that a tepid response here lends credence to the kind of narrative that our enemies spin about the united states in their efforts to sow discord? >> sir, i would submit that our leadership has been strong in the region. we stepped up early on, not just
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for the syrian crisis but also the iraqi crisis. you know, our footprint originally in the region was emergency response. people have asked us before, you know, why we've been slow to resettle. well, we are not the only ones who have been slow to resettle affirmatively. you in th unhcr only started two years ago for syrians because the hope for the syrian people, and i think the hope of the international community, is that people can go home. that's really what any refugee wants is they want the ability to go home. and that's to syria. so it was really only about two years ago that unhcr as an institution said it's been too long, the countries that are hosting these refugees are bearing too much of a responsibility, and we need to help. unhcr was important in setting a benchmark. we joined early on. we didn't announce a number or
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goal. we said we are open for referrals. at the moment we have 19,000, and we're going to continue to accept those. so although we have a 10,000 entrant goal for this next year, we're not limited by that goal. and we'll continue to accept referrals from unhcr as this tragedy continues. >> thank you. i would just submit -- i'm way over -- i would submit that that is something to be thinking about. thank you. >> senator, if i may add very briefly, i -- senator durbin mentioned in his opening remarks that we do have a long process in the u.s. program in order for someone to come into the system. our average processing times. i don't think any of us are satisfied with those average processing times. and i can tell you that i have very strong direction from my deputy secretary to look hard at the places where we can affect
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efficiencies without cutting corners in any way in order to see that we can be more efficient see that when those referrals do come to us, we're able to process them effectively and efficiently as much as we possibly can. >> okay. senator franken, i would just note that in 2013, the united states issued 117,000 green cards. that's permanent residency in the united states, citizenship, to migrants from muslim countries including 70,000 to migrants from just middle eastern countries, admitted 40,000 designated refugees and asylum-seekers -- refugees and asylum-seekers which are essentially the same from all muslim nations. i think we've been generous. we're not -- >> i'm sorry -- >> i just wanted to make that point. i understand. >> senator blumenthal? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank senator franken
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for his excellent questions and his comments. and he is absolutely right that this issue deserves the most sober of treatment. i beg to differ, mr. bartlett. we may have stepped up more recently, but we have done far less than we should have in the region, having visited some of those camps, alzatari, for example. i think the united states could and should have done more. and now can and should do more. and not just because it improves our standing in the region, but it improves our sense of self worth as a nation. we are a nation of immigrants, and many of those immigrants are refugees like my father who came to this country in 1935 to escape persecution in germany at the age of 17, speaking virtually no english, having not much more than the shirt on his back and knowing almost no one.
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and this country gave him a chance to succeed. just as we will countless other refugees in the future, as we've done in the past, with refugees of many, many other countries. and the need for this program is as serious and urgent as ever because there is no shortage in the world of inhumane dictators, terrorist conflicts, environmental crises that contribute to the largest refugee crisis since world war ii. that's what we're facing right now. and my view is that we need to improve and speed the screening techniques because the american people need to be satisfied, as has been expressed here, about the efficacy and accuracy of those screening techniques. i've proposed a number of reforms, three in particular, for example, expanding the p3
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program which gives vetsresettlt applicants with u.s. families the ability to skip the referrals from the unhcr and apply directly to the resettlement support center. second, improving the timing and security of medical and security screenings to ensure that applicants or their entire families do not have their checks expire, forcing them to redo many of those screenings when individual parts of the test expire while they're waiting for other parts to be completed. and third, keeping families updated about their status. frequently a large family's resettlement will be delayed because a single family member is waiting to be approved. those are kind of common sense, straightforward methods of reforming the screening process so that it takes weeks, not
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years, to reach conclusion. i think they're doable. they may require more resources, but that's where the united states congress should be involved. and i will be sending a letter within a few days detailing those proposals. the large audience here, i think, is testimony to the importance of this subject. again, not just because of our standing or image in the world, but our self-image, our self-worth, our view of ourselves as a nation. my feeling is that the american people still believe that we are the nation of the statue of liberty. that we have arms open to people who want to come here for opportunity and freedom and to escape persecution and harm abroad. and mr. chairman, if there's no objection, i'd like to enter into the record some of the evidence of that widespread
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interest and support. a letter from former republican and democratic officials including ambassadors ryan crocker and robert ford, and former bush administration official robert wolfowitz calling for the united states to accept 100,000 syrian refugees. a letter from 18 mayors including chicago mayor rahm emanuel asking the obama administration to resettle syrian refugee in their cities because, i'm quoting, "refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially, and culturally," and a letter signed by 4 hundred faith leaders express -- 400 faith leaders expressing any effort to limit the resettlement of muslim refugee. thank you. and if i may just ask a question
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-- although i'm -- with your permission -- going beyond my time. mr. bartlett, and anyone else who wants to answer, if the p3 program were expanded to settlement applicants with american family members, would that have any negative impact on our national security, and would you be willing to consider such an expansion? >> senator, i think that's something we would certainly take under advisement and discuss amongst ourselves. there have historically been some problems with the priority 3 program in terms of false claims of family relationships. you may be aware we suspended the program for a period of time until we were able to reintroduce some integrity features. so i think with the proposed expansion of the eligibility categories in the united states, we want to think about it very
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carefully through lens, and based on that experience to make sure that in expanding that we had the appropriate safeguards at the same time. and if i may mention of your three points that you addressed earlier, i think on the second piece it improving the timing of security checks and addressing the issue of having them expire, that has traditionally been a challenge for all of us. but we have some recent improvements. i think we could share with you and brief your staff. we've introduced some automation just this past summer with the agencies that do the vetting, and we believe that's going to address significantly through the institution of recurrent vetting is going to help us ameliorate the problem of security checks expiring and the challenges that that has presented to us. so i think we will have some positive news for you on that score. >> anyone else want to address
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that question? i am aware that some changes have been implemented. i would be interested not only in your plans but in evidence that, in fact, they are having an effect because i think that the credibility of the entire refugee settlement program hinges on effective screening. and one of the principal measures of effectiveness is timeliness. and the delays can, in effect, be self-fulfilling expectations when those tests or screenings in effect expire, and they should expire after a period of time. but they need to be done expeditiously. so i thank the chairman for his patience. i have a lot more questions which i will submit for the record. thank you. >> thank you, senator
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blumenthal. and i thank you, panel. i would like to walk through some of the details of how you do your work because i believe that as presently constructed, we're not able to do what you're suggesting today we're able to do, and the costs are much gr t greater than you suggested in your statement. we've got billions of dollars in costs that are going to occur as a result of all the programs that refugees are entitled to receive. and while we had 18 democratic mayors asking president obama to send more syrian refugees to their cities, homelessness in the united states has doubled since the last recession. we have a financial crisis, too. every new dollar spent on these refugees will essentially be borrowed because it's new expenditure, and we don't have new revenue to pay for it.
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new york mayor de blasio called for more refugees, but had originally said this is a european problem. i don't think the europeans helped us with the central american problem. we've got countries like brazil and argentina that aren't taking any refugees. new york city hall announced it would spend $1 billion more over the next four years focusing on homelessness in new york. so i would say somebody needs to be talking about the american people. what we want to do. we want to help, we are helping. we're doing more financially than any other country in the world to help deal with this crisis. and i don't accept the idea that we're not doing our fair share. and europe should be picking up the largest share of the problem, frankly. and i don't see it there. and a good policy is that people
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should be helped to stay as close to home as possible, and our overriding policy goals should be to create stability in syria and libya and yemen and iraq so people can go home. we've allowed that to get away from us. we can criticize our policymakers for allowing this dangerous humanitarian disaster to occur. i just would say, i think we have to ask those questions and about who we're going to serve and whose interest we're trying to serve. now, mr. emrich, so you -- can you name a single computer database outside of maybe some of our very, very small but
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significantly valuable intelligence databases for syria that you've run a check against? does syria have any that you can access? >> the government of syria does not, no, sir. >> all right. so fundamentally, they're the ones that keep records. we keep them in the united states, some people are arrested and so forth. but they don't -- you don't have access to any if they exist in syria. >> as milk strack mentioned, in most cases, these individuals do have documents from syria. we do have various ways of identifying those documents, as she described. our officers are trained in fraud detection. i would be happy to -- we would
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be happy to brief you in another setting on some of the ways that we have to do this. >> i'm asking you to be -- talk to the american people. the american people are asking you a question. i read what mr. fbi director said. he said there's no database to check. he suggests there's no way that they can get sufficient information on -- implies substantial majority of these persons. so aren't you left to basically looking at whatever document they produce in conducting an interview? >> i can assure the american people that we have a robust series of screening measures here that encompass the wide range of u.s. government resources that involve u.s. law enforcement agencies and intelligence community members. that these processes and these screening measures are constantly reviewed. that we are continuously looking at ways to improve these. that they incorporate both
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biometric and biographic checks. they integrate an in-depth interview with a trained u.s. government officer. they involve an additional interview or inspection, rather, when the person presents himself or theherself at the u.s. port entry. >> senator, if i may, we have -- >> i want to say this -- >> okay. >> i've been in law enforcement 15 years. i know how the national crime information center runs. i know how you run background checks, mr. emrich. there's no way you can do background checks of any significant -- i'm sure we have some intelligence data on a number of people throughout the region. and if you get a hit on that, i'm sure you would reject them. but you have only a miniscule number of people that have been identified i'm sure in that fashion. i don't believe you can tell us
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with any certainty that you have an ability to conduct an efficient background check. let's say you have no information, let's say there's a question, do you have any ability to send an investigator to iraq to check and see if the person actually lived on this street, actually had the job he claims to have had? >> sir, if i may -- >> i was talking to mr. emrich. >> okay. >> well, we do not have the ability to send an investigator to syria. we do have resources that we can use to verify various elements of someone's testimony and story. >> i'm sure there are things you could do. you're telling us you can do that for a majority of the people that you've interviewed? you have the ability for a majority of the people you interviewed to have independent data of value to help identify them? >> we in many cases are able to
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find independent data -- >> in many cases. i asked the majority. >> i cannot quantify. i have seen -- >> 20% or 80% you get positive data from? can you tell us? is it less than 20 or more than 80? >> i can't give you a number. >> well, the reason is you don't have the ability. i wish you did, but you don't. ms. strack? >> mr. emrich covered the point i was going to cover, sir. >> well -- >> mr. chair, if i could -- sorry. not on security screen, but i want to go back to a point you made about humanitarian response. >> right. >> the u.s. responsibilities versus those of other countries in the world. and i know you mentioned brazil as not taking refugees. i wanted to set the record straight that brazil, in fact, has stepped up quite large in
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terms of the syria crisis. they have done a humanitarian visa program and have allowed thousands of syrians to come to brazil. they're not coming technically as refugees, but they are coming from the immediate region of the middle east. so there's about 30 countries that are involved in refugee resettlement of syrians. and so you're right -- right now europe is taking the bulk because people are moving across lands borders. but there's countries like new zealand, australia, and canada that are playing a significant role. thank you. >> well, according to the information i have, the united states has six times more migrants than all the latin american countries combined. do you dispute that? >> i'm only talking about refugees at this point, sir. >> i've also seen numbers that indicate that perhaps they've agreed in recent -- how along ago was that that they agreed to step up -- >> it was within the last year.
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maybe six to eight months, but quite a large job. >> we've done doing it a long time. we're very generous, and i think the world leader in doing that. we're proud of that. we want to be a great country for handling refugees. and i just believe that we need to understand the reality. how much it's going to cost and the danger of admitting those who are -- who could be a threat to the united states. ms. strack, there was a number of examples of people who have involved themselves in terrorism since they've been in the united states. sometimes when they come, they may not be radicalized, but somehow, some way become radicalized. there's no way you could identify that i don't suppose. is it?
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>> no, sir. we can't predict the future. >> so we know the boston bombers came as refugees -- >> they did not, sir. >> they didn't? how did they come? >> i would have to check with some of my colleagues. but they were not refugee. >> were the parents refugees? >> i'll need to check with some of my colleagues. >> and we had a bosnian refugee along with others donating supplies and smuggled arms to terrorist organizations in syria and iraq. i don't think that's in dispute. ramiz hodzik and his wife were among six bonds nancy living in minnesota other illinois, and new york, charged last week with providing material support to groups that we consider are terrorist organizations. an uzbek refugee living in idaho was arrested and charged with providing support to terrorist
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organizations in the form of teaching terror recruits how to build a bomb. and somali americans in minnesota, seven were charged with trying to join isis. so it's not an easy job. there's always risk. we want to be sure you're fully equipped and able to do the best job we can. and i think we should be careful as we go forward and always try to protect the national safety as you indicate. do you know any -- can any of you tell me how many people who have been given refugee status since 2001 have been identified as affiliated with terrorism in any manner?
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cannot -- we've got a lot of public records on them. i certainly don't have the full number, that's for sure. uscis is generally fee funded. of course, there are a lot of things you could spend those fees on. and if you use fees to expand dramatically the number of refugees from syria or other places in the middle east, that does tend to drain the money, does it not, ms. strack, that you would otherwise have for other needs of your agency? >> yes, sir. in order to reprioritize fee funding to the refugee program in. if -- in f. y. '16, that would follow other priorities. >> following up on mr. purdue's question, mr. bartlett, if we go to 100,000, are you aware of how
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many of those over the 75,000 this year, that's 25,000 more, how many of those would be coming from the syrian -- from syria and/or the region? >> we don't have a projection what it would look like when we bring 100,000 in. what i can tell you is that we traditionally respond to the humanitarian crisis of the time. and so in the last five years, we've resettled a number of burmese, bhutanese, somalis, iraqis, some of those who work for us, now increasingly syrians, and congolese. and we've had a very big program build on the congolese coming out of the democratic republic of the congo who have been in basically asylum, in temporary asylum conditions for many years. we will -- again, those will be the populations. they will shift according to if peace, for example, exists, or if conditions exist to be able
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to return home, then those populations decline. but one would predict that probably syria and iraq would continue to be large. >> secretary kerry indicated that when he gave us some sort of consultation. told us, floated the figure 75,000 for next year, then 85 we've heard, and he told us he warned us it might be substantially more. so 100,000 would certainly be a lot -- well within what he's suggested he may recommend. and so we don't get fees from those, do we, ms. strack? i mean, it's a normal immigrant that has to pay fees that help subsidize these kind of procedures. >> that's correct, sir. there's no fee to apply for refugee status.
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>> the "washington post" said that as zareb and his wife arrived in 2002 as refugees, their sons and daughters followed a short time later from chechnya, of course. it indicates at least the parents if not the sons came as refugees, would it not? >> i would need to check with my colleagues, sir. >> what about parole program -- is that under the homeland security section? >> it actually is a shared responsibility with the dissolution of the former immigration and nationality service and to the immigration operational divisions at department of homeland security, cbp, customs and border protection, as well as uscis have parole authority. >> we were indicated in a staff
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briefing that dhs is looking at a categorical case-by-case program for parole which is -- a program that has, i think, some difficulties. i'm not sure the kind of thing that ought to be done with regard to syria. but apparently it is being considered. is it still being considered, to your knowledge, using parole program to deal with the syrian problem? >> sir, the uscis received a letter that had been signed by 70 members of congress asking the administration to consider what we've called a syrian family reunification parole program. at the time, this was a model based on a cuban family reunification program. under the design of the cuban program, family members in the united states were eligible to apply for green card for their family members. the form i-130.
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so they were eligible for that application and had been approved beneficiaries, but their family members weren't able to actually take advantage of that and come to the united states because of the numerical limits on family-based immigration every year. so the program in cuba was to take those people who were in fact eligible for green cards and let them come to the united states and wait in the united states in lieu of waiting in cuba. so the letter that we received recommended that the administration consider a similar sort of program. so this would be a relative in the united states who would petition on behalf of a close relative, and if that beneficiary was a syrian, the recommendation that was we consider granting parole to that syrian beneficiary. at the time, the administration made a decision not to do that program at that point in time. as the conditions have continued
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to deteriorate and as we have had requests from other stakeholders to take another look at that, my leadership has agreed that they would take another look at that program. it doesn't mean that the decision will change, but they have agreed to consider it. >> well, you've got a request. and i'm sure you should consider it. i think that's a problematic way to do business. we're increasing the numbers of refugees for syria, and i think that is the appropriate way to openly and directly deal with this. the parole system was never designed to be used in this fashion, as i understand the law. with regard to resettlement, i guess mr. kerry, does that fall within your area? >> yes, it does. >> in general, i believe you had some sort of consultation with
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communities about a desire to resettle a number of people in their community. what is your policy on that, and can you assure us that any community that would receive a direct flow of refugees would be consulted before this happens? >> i believe i will defer to my colleagues at the department of state who handle the admissions and placement portion of the program. >> so sir, i can -- the state department has a responsibility for the first, for the placement of the refugees in u.s. communities. and hhs' responsibilities then are longer term in terms of support and integration adjustment. we have, again, we do consult very closely at the community level. we put the responsibility on the partner in that community so the affiliates i talked about
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before, 320 or so. and we ask them -- in fact, we require them to do consultations each quarter of the year. and -- >> consultations with the mayor or the governor -- >> consultations include elected officials, so it could be city council, as well as mayor. it includes other people who are providing services, so schools, health clinics, other medical service providers, law enforcement, as well as volunteer groups that are supporting refugees. so we're talking -- we want to talk with the broad community, not just the people who are involved exactly in the resettlement program. but also people who are affected by it. so that consultation takes place quarterly. that consultation includes a representative from the state government. so somebody who is working attached to the governor's office or has communication with the governor's office. then those consultations are fed back through the national headquarters and then to the
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state department. and what i can assure you is -- in fact, i was just in twin falls, idaho, two weeks ago -- we want to listen to every voice in the community. not everybody is a supporter of refugees. not everybody is a supporter of syrian resettlement. so we want to take all of those voices into account and see how we can respond. and what i can tell you is that overwhelmingly we find that the majority of citizens appreciate the program and support it. so we want to find a way to make that work for everybody. >> very good. we well, we're talking about a very major undertaking. heritage foundation study has reported that 10,000 refugees of our lifetime will cost the united states treasury $4
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billion. excuse me -- $6.5 billion for 10,000. because most of the people are going to struggle at lower incomes and so there's a cost on that. then you say you go to 30,000. 70,000. 100,000. that's a substantial cost. and each year, if you get another hundred thousand, over 30 year, you've encreased a very large number of people, statistically speaking, will be drawing more benefits than they pay in and it puts stress on medicare. on the foot stamp program. it puts stress on social security and medicare because most will pay into the program presumably if they work, but like most people, they'll pay in less than they take out. that's why those programs are on such a crisis path today.
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so, it's a huge financial cost, then we have the difficulty of being able to screen the applicants effectively and i think if you need more, i hope you'll ask for it. i'm worried that it's almost impossible, even with more staff, to really get the information because we're not going to be able as some might think, to go out to the neighborhood and actually interview people to make sure this is the same person who lived on the street. that worked at this job and was a good and decent person and so, we see that in europe, how it's happening in huge numbers. i believe the american people are generous and kind and decent. they want to contribute to help solving this refugee crisis and we are in a significant degree,
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but we're entitled to have our officials protect our interests, the people's interest, that's what i think we're trying to do today. i don't blame any of you for the difficult job you have. but i do think we need to ask ourselves how so much instability occurred in the world. need to ask ourselves how we can more positively assure that stability is returned to as much of that area of the world as possible and to try to create a circumstance and financially help in a humanitarian way, people that are really hurting and many of them are. we know that. so, thank you for your service to your country. we appreciate that. so, the record will stay open for one week. and you are dismissed. thank you very much.
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presidential candidates, senator bernie sanders and
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former maryland governor martin o'malley spoke at the congressional hispanic caucus annual conference today in washington. you can see their remarks tonight at 8:00 eastern on cspan. tomorrow, the head of volkswagen will testify before a house committee answering questions about volkswagen car emissions, including allegations that the company used software that circumvented diesel requirements. live coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. eastern on cspan 3. this monday on cspan's new series, landmark cases, in 1830, dred scott was enslaved to dr. john emerson. he was assigned to duties in several free states during which dred scott married harriet ro n
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robinson. follow the case of scott versus sanford in cspan's new series, landmark cases. historic supreme court decisions. with our special guest, george washington university law professor, christopher bracey and martha jones from the university of michigan law school. we'll explore this historic ruling by reviewing the life and times of the people who were the plaintiffs, lawyers and justices in these cases. live monday at 9:00 p.m. eastern and be sure to join the conversation as we'll be taking your calls, e-mails, tweets and facebook comments during the program using the hash tag landmark cases. on cspan, cspan 3 and cspan radio. for background, order your copy of landmark cases come pan yan book. available for 8.95 plus shipping.
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student cam is cspan's annual documentary competition for students in grades 6 through 12. it's an opportunity for students to think critically of issues of national importance by creating a five to seven-minute documentary in which they can express those views. >> it's important for students to get vold because it gives them the opportunity and the platform to have their voices heard on issues important to them so they can express those views by creating a documentary. we get a wide range of entries. the most important aspect for every one we get is going to be the content. we have had winners in the past created by just using a cell phone and we have others that are created using more high-tech equipment. but once again, it's really the content that matters and shines through in these documentaries. the response from students in the past has been great. we've had many different issues that they have created videos on that are important to them. we have topics from education,
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the economy and the environment really showing the wide variety of issues that are important to students. >> having more water in the river would have many positive impacts to better serve the tulsa community and businesses inside it. >> just as a car cannot run without oil, humans cannot run without food. >> prior to the individuals with disab disableties education act, children with disableties were not given the opportunity of an education. >> this year's theme is road to the white house. what's the most important issue you want to candidates to discuss in the 2016 presidential campaign? it is full on into the campaign season. there are many different candidates discussing several issues. one of the key requirements in creating documentary is to include some cspan footage. footage should really compliment their point of view and not just dominate the video, but it's a great way for them to include
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more information on the video that furthers their points. >> first bill is the water resources reform and development act. known as worda. >> we've heard the jokes about school meals and certainly going up the fish sticks and mystery meat tacos. >> there's a vital role that the federal government plays. it's especially vital for students with disabilities. >> they'll also find teacher tip, rubrics to help them with their classroom. more information about prizes, incorporating cspan video and ways to contact us if they have further questions. the deadline is january to 20th, 2016. one year away from the next presidential inauguration. next, a look at terrorism in russia and their strategy to
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fight isis. national defense university associate professor elena pokalova spoke about russia at the wilson center. it's about an hour. all right. good morning, everyone. thank you so much for joining us. i'm matt rojansky and i'm very pleased to be able to introduce elena pokalova. this morning. before i do though, a couple of housekeeping reminders. tomorrow, tuesday, october 6th
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at 9:00 a.m., wer going to have an event which we're doing jointly with the frederick, the future of europe's eastern policy chances and challenges. and this is a report on a project which the -- supported, europe and the east in 2030, so it's -- eastern neighborhood, which so far has been enormously successful. that will be a celebration. i'm kidding. it's going to be an expert panel reporting on the product of this project. thursday this week, october 8th at 9:30, we have an event called assessing the state of the russian media and this is just a really great opportunity when we happen to have three very big names in the world of reporting in russia and about


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