(Emily Larsen, Liberty Headlines) Debates over immigrant and refugee access to abortion dominated conversation at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing intended to address concerns about the refugee resettlement program.
The hearing took place a day after a detained 17-year-old undocumented immigrant, “Jane Doe,” was permitted to have an abortion after a federal appeals court issued a controversial decision.
The Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security was originally slated to examine issues of fraud, abuse, and vetting procedures in various agencies involved with refugee resettlement. But in the wake of the Jane Doe case, and with witnesses not prepared with facts on fraud in the refugee placement system, the committee made little progress on refugee resettlement issues.
“Do you believe that women and girls have constitutional rights like other people who are in America, or do you think that constitutional rights – for example, to due process and privacy – depend on immigration status?” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) asked witness Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Lloyd is entrenched in the Jane Doe controversy, accused of personally intervening to persuade pregnant minor undocumented immigrant girls to not have abortions. Lloyd agreed with Lofgren that due process applies to everyone in the United States, but declined to specify if he tried to advise any pregnant young immigrant girls against having an abortion.
“What’s been created by that decision of the unelected judge is an unconditional right to an abortion to a minor who can sneak in to the United States and is still subject to the adjudication of deportation,” said Rep Steve King (R-IA).
“She had a full right – full ability, I should say, rather than a right – to go back to her home country willingly, and subject herself to the laws of her home country. So I think this is a terrible precedent that’s been set by this judge, and hope this full Judiciary Committee one day soon addresses the rogue judges we have in this country,” continued King.
When the committee discussed refugee resettlement practices and procedures, while the witnesses confirmed that various departments are implementing more thorough background investigation procedures, they mostly provided general details rather than hard facts.
“[I]n many failed states from which refugees are admitted, there is no reliable information about refugees,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in his opening statement. “We know that over 300 individuals being actively investigated for terrorist-related activity by the FBI came to the United States as refugees, and we know that at least 2 of the 10 successful terrorist attacks carried out on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001 were perpetrated by individuals who entered the U.S. as refugees.”
Francis Cissna, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security, said there is a backlog of over 300,000 applications for asylum. The backlog is due to a surge of Americans coming in from Central America after a new requirement to process all “credible fear” claims., and nearly impossible to get through. Cissna said he thinks that Congress should further define the credible fear standard because the current definition isn’t clear enough to be accurately implemented. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) said he is working on such legislation to weed out some of the backlog.
Rebecca Gambler, director of Homeland Security and Justice in the Government Accountability Office, noted that there have been several instances of fraud in the refugee resettlement process, such as government officers soliciting bribes to process applications.
Despite the committee hearing’s advertised focus on fraud, Simon Henshaw of the State Department didn’t have any statistics or specific examples of fraud in the US Refugee Relocation and Assistance Program prepared for the committee.
“Didn’t you know you were coming to testify today about this program?” asked Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. “I would like to see a report of what kinds of fraud, I thought that was the purpose of this hearing. And I’m a little bit dumbfounded we don’t have that information.”