Last week, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA-4) introduced H.R. 6110, the Allow State Sovereignty Upon Refugee Entry (ASSURE) Act. It proposes amending the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to require the Office of Refugee Resettlement to submit an impossibly broad plan to every state where they intend to send a refugee, replete with duplicative requirements and an inefficient state approval process, as the sole means of resettling a refugee.
This legislation has nothing to do with reclaiming state sovereignty over refugee resettlement or safety. This is another attempt in a string of legal workarounds to circumvent federal responsibilities and powers authorized by Constitution of United States and the Supreme Court, in order to discriminate against refugees based on national origin.
Nothing in the legislation provides for additional security measures beyond those already included in the rigorous screening process implemented by the Department of State, in conjunction with various other U.S. agencies, including Customs and Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and USCIS (to name just a few).
What it does accomplish is instituting a lavishly wasteful procedural process requiring the submission of a plan that includes a list of all necessary and foreseen costs and benefits associated with resettlement, vaccination and health records, criminal history, and possible terrorist ties. This submission then runs through each State House and Senate, and requires signature by the Governor, all while continuing to request full reimbursement for all resettlement costs incurred.
Let me be clear: it is critical that a government entity thoroughly vets every refugee entrant; to ensure our security as a nation, we must know details about an individual, including those listed in this legislation, prior to admitting a refugee into the United States. That responsibility falls on the federal government to undertake, which it accomplishes during the aforementioned rigorous screening process.
The Constitution of the United States grants the federal government exclusive power over immigration matters, including the power to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” For nearly fifty years, the United States has been bound to a series of international obligations concerning the resettlement of refugees, including the rights of those refugees to choose their place of residence within their host country and to move freely within that country.
To clarify, the Supreme Court noted over one hundred years ago that an alien lawfully admitted in the United States, “has not only the privilege of entering and abiding in the United States, but also of entering and abiding in any State, and being an inhabitant of any State entitles him, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to the equal protection of its laws.”
Since then, we’ve seen Congress enact many laws implementing the powers granted in the Constitution and affirmed by the highest court in the land: the Immigration and Nationality Act and the United States Refugee Act of 1980, all of which further regulate the admission and resettlement of refugees. Countless provisions in these laws expand and clarify the powers of the federal government to regulate refugees, admit refugees, increase the number of refugees admitted for humanitarian concerns, to authorize programs for the domestic resettlement of and assistance to refugees, and to fund the states or public or private nonprofits providing resettlement assistance in the states.
Since states cannot effectively veto placement of refugees in their state–more to come in a very detailed post regarding the legality of withdrawals–and states cannot condition assistance based on race, religion, nationality, sex, or political opinion, the newest state maneuver is to cloak discrimination in a ‘state power’ argument.
Intended or not, the ultimate consequence of this legislation is to keep refugees, specifically Syrian refugees, from being resettled in any state without jumping through hurdles designed only to slow the process of resettlement.
The global refugee population is at its highest point since World War II. The world is facing the worst displacement crisis in recorded history, with more than 65 million displaced persons, 51% of whom are children.
At the epicenter of the global refugee crisis is Syria, where the bombings of maternity hospitals and medical facilities is commonplace. Our commitment to international laws and norms, and our humanity, should compel us as a nation to provide refuge to those fleeing the same war and violence we condemn. As the New York Times surmised: today Anne Frank is a young Syrian girl. We must do all we can to provide the lost generation of Syrians, and other refugees across the globe, the opportunity to live normal lives once again.