Republican presses for delay in resettlement of Syrian refugees

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE (R-S.C.) is pressing Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryMellman: Looking to Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment Biden rallies with John Kerry in early primary states MORE to delay an effort to potentially resettle Syrian refugees in his district.

“As the Member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Spartanburg area, I am deeply concerned about the lack of notice, information, and consultation afforded to me and my constituents about this issue,” Gowdy, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security subpanel, wrote in an April 13 letter to Kerry.

He said it has been reported and confirmed by staff within the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration that a resettlement agency submitted a proposal to open a site in Spartanburg and that it was his “understanding” the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program approved the request to resettle a certain number of refugees in the city.

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The U.S. is likely to resettle up to 2,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year and potentially thousands more in fiscal 2016 under the State Department-led effort. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to approve the admissions. 

The program has raised concerns among Republicans, including House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (Texas), who fear the administration is creating a “jihadi pipeline” into the U.S.

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, asked Kerry to answer a set of 17 questions, including an explanation of how the Spartanburg site was selected, when the first refugees might arrive and details of the background check process displaced persons must undergo to take part in the effort.

“I request that any plans to resettle refugees in the Spartanburg, South Carolina, area be placed on hold until my constituents and I receive your substantive responses to the questions and information requested in this letter,” Gowdy wrote. 

He added that “before moving forward, both the Spartanburg community and I should have time to substantively review the information and be comfortable with the information provided.”