Top refugee official at State Department sidelined: report

Top refugee official at State Department sidelined: report
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A top official at the State Department working on refugee admissions has reportedly been moved to a temporary assignment in what some fear is part of the Trump administration's plan to stifle the flow of refugees resettling in the United States.

Reuters reported Tuesday that Lawrence Bartlett, head of refugee admissions at the State Department’s Population, Refugees and Migration bureau, had been temporarily reassigned to a different office that handles Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Bartlett, who has served in this position since 2010, stressed in an email to Reuters that he has not been told the assignment is permanent.

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“I can assure you that I have NOT been permanently reassigned from my position with the refugee program,” he told Reuters in an email.

Current and former officials, however, say that such an assignment is unusual for someone with Bartlett's rank and experience. The FOIA office, they said, is like being reassigned to "Siberia."

“The FOIA office was always the punch line of a joke around here, as in: ‘They’ll send me to the FOIA office,'” one current official said.

The number of refugees arriving in the U.S. has plummeted since President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE lifted a temporary ban but implemented tougher rules for vetting applicants in late October. The Trump administration has also effectively halted admissions from 11 countries, nine of which have a majority-Muslim population.

Nonprofit advocates for refugees and their resettlement told Reuters they are worried Bartlett will be replaced by an appointee with far less experience in refugee matters.

“We are of course extremely concerned, looking at what’s happened with other government departments, that he will be replaced by a political appointee who is just going to continue to destroy the program,” Hans Van de Weerd, vice president of U.S. programs at the International Rescue Committee, told Reuters.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Bartlett's reassignment to the news service, but stressed that FOIA requests are “a high priority of the Department of State to promote transparency.”