With barely two months left in office before President-elect Donald Trump takes over, is President Obama consumed with the idea of cementing his legacy through championing one of his signature issues? Or is he out to leave his successor with more potential problems? And why are Republican lawmakers decrying the lack of transparency on the new secret deal Obama has entered into?
Australia has rejected nearly 2,500 refugees and the U.S. will come to the rescue and open its shores to them. Problem is, even top lawmakers are being denied crucial information on the identities of the refugees.
Sen. Chuck Grassley-R-Iowa and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, primarily wondering why their departments negotiated such a huge international agreement regarding refugees without even consulting or informing Congress.
Information about the individuals being considered for resettlement have been " classified" even though refugee admissions are traditionally considered public information. Officials, however, confirmed that the countries of origin of the refugees US is about to take in are Iran, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Sudan, as well as some deemed " stateless".
Iran, Sudan and Syria are included in the U.S. current State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
Center for Immigration Studies fellow Don Barnett said that the " stateless" category is what he worries about the most. He thinks that those belonging to this category could potentially be Burmese Muslims who have posed assimilation issues for countries that have taken them in. In Barnett's opinion this could set a dangerous precedent which gives the message that the U.S, will take any ethnic group which other nations don't get along with.
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls the agreement with the U.S. involving 2,465 refugees currently being held in Papa New Guinea and Nauru a " one off" arrangement. Barnett doubts the truthfulness of such statement by the Australian leader as he also scores the Obama administration for this " backroom deal with another country's refugee problem".
Australia has been widely criticized in the handling of its refugee problem, paying poorer island nation neighbors to maintain detention center for refugees, while refusing to give asylum to those wishing to enter its country without being vetted first.
There are also speculations that the U.S. and Australia may have reached a trade of refugees agreement, with Australia taking in refugees from Central America while US will open its doors to the ones coming from " the most dangerous areas of the world".
The State Department has said in a statement that the Obama administration is proud of its role in taking in refugees, even those " other nations don't want." The US also happens to be the largest refugee resettlement country in the world. Obama even announced that the government's resettlement program has grown substantially in the last year as the quota for refugees has even increased from 85,000 last year to this year's 110,000.
What the Obama administration should be explaining, however, is why some refugee deals are being done in secret, as well as clarify to the public the timing and costs of Obama's refugee agenda vis-a-vis any benefits of such to Americans.