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New Report on Tillerson-Miller Battle Over Visa and Refugee Functions

Posted: 12:40 pm ET

 

The Bureau of Consular Affairs via history.state.gov:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

WaPo’s John Rogin reported on Sunday about the internal administration debate over which part of the government should be charged of deciding who gets into the United States.  WH policy adviser Stephen Miller has reportedly been pushing Secretary Tillerson to get “tougher” on immigration, vetting and refugee policy at the State Department.   Rogin writes that a White House official told him that if Tillerson doesn’t go along with the changes that Miller and others (???) in the White House are pushing the State Department to implement internally, the plan to strip Foggy Bottom of its role supervising these functions could gain traction.  Rogin’s report quotes State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying that Tillerson believes that two bureaus should remain where they are and the Secretary of State reportedly views consular and refugees work “as essential to the Department’s mission to secure our borders and protect the American people.” We linked to Rogin’s report below.

Stephen Miller is widely regarded as the principal author of Trump’s travel ban.  We have a feeling that the only “tougher” vetting that Miller and company will find acceptable is shutting down the U.S. border.

We know that some folks are already distressed with the news about the the potential transfer of consular function to DHS. It doesn’t help that Secretary Tilleron’s “listening tour” recommended it (see @StateDept Survey Report Recommends Moving Issuance of Visas, Passports, Travel Docs to DHS).  Neither is it helpful to discover that the nominee to be the next Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs is on the record supporting this move (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs. And we haven’t forgotten that the nominee to be the next “M” is a seasoned GOP budget aide (see Trump to Nominate Top GOP Budget Aide Eric Ueland to be Under Secretary for Management #StateDept).

But take a deep breath.

Last March, OPM released a publication titled, Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook (pdf). Under Transfer of Function, OPM writes:

An interagency transfer of a function and/or personnel requires specific statutory authorization. Without a specific statutory basis, there is no authority for an agency to permanently transfer a function and/or personnel to another agency on the basis of a memorandum of understanding, a directive from the Executive Office of the President, a reimbursable agreement, or other administrative procedure.

So Congress would have a say whether or not consular function should be stripped from State and moved to DHS. We anticipate that Congressional representatives — especially those with oversight responsibilities are already aware of the many improvements over the visa and refugee vetting process — would need a compelling justification for moving both functions to another agency.  Like how would DHS make it better, with Agatha and a pre-crime division?

Per historical record, on April 18, 1997 then President Clinton announced the reorganization of foreign affairs agencies. In December 1998, he submitted a report to Congress on the reorganization as required by the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the Act that provided authority to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies. On March 28, 1999, the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was integrated into the State Department. The United States Information Agency (USIA) was integrated into State on October 1, 1999.  The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), part of USIA, became a separate federal entity. The Act also provided that USAID remained a separate agency but on April 1, 1999, the USAID Administrator reported to and came under the direct authority and foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State.  Shrinking State’s budget started in 1993 during the first Clinton term under Warren Christopher. The reorganization did not get completed until halfway through Clinton’s second term.

We cannot say whether or not this is going to happen. After all, during the Clinton years, GOP Senator Jesse Helms was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So we need to pay attention where this is going, but would not do any good to panic over something that appears to be a floated idea at this time. It would, of course, be helpful if we can hear directly from Secretary Tillerson.

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Photo of the Day: When Blinken Meets Grover #UNGA #Refugees

Posted: 12:20 am ET
Updated: Sept 22, 12:56 am EST

 

Via state.gov

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Sesame Street's "Grover" to talk about refugees at the United Nations in New York City, New York on September 19, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Sesame Street’s “Grover” to talk about refugees at the United Nations in New York City, New York on September 19, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]


Here’s a video; almost afraid Grover was going to ask, “which state?”

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Snapshot: Refugee Admissions to the United States, FY2005-2015

Posted: 7:30 pm EDT

Via state.gov

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 4.20.19 PM

The full report is available to download here (excel file): Refugee Admissions Report 2015_07_31. Note that the August and September 2015 numbers are not yet included in the year-todate total for FY2015, which is 51,530 as of July 31, 2015.

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US Embassy Budapest Issues Alert on Railway Station, Silent on Refugee/Migration Crisis on Doorstep

Posted: 6:37 pm EDT

 

The UNCHR in Budapest, Hungary writes that — an angry confrontation between police and refugees on a blocked train just outside Budapest; a makeshift camp of stranded Syrians, Afghans and others at the capital’s main railway station; more than 2,000 refugees crossing into the country from Serbia each day the contours of Europe’s refugee and migration crisis are growing and shifting.  It describes the concourse in front of the main Keleti train station in Budapest as resembling a sad, makeshift campsite. “More than 2,000 people slept there overnight, a few in small tents, some with blankets and air mattresses, many on the cement floor covered in nothing but their clothes.”
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On September 3, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary issued an alert concerning the migrants at the the Keleti Railway Station. This is about the only statement we could locate concerning the refugee crisis in its host country:

The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Hungary to be alert when traveling through the Keleti Railway Station (Palyaudvar).  Increasing numbers of migrants in and around the station have resulted in large crowds in public spaces.  Although these crowds have occasionally confronted police, demonstrations have been peaceful, and the presence of migrants has not led to a rise in crime, violent or otherwise.  However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Rail passengers should be prepared to show their passports to be admitted to the trains and platforms.  Rail traffic to and from the station has been subject to significant delays.  In some cases, departures have been cancelled.

On the same day when Hungary was accused of inhumane treatment of refugees, Embassy Budapest tweeted this:

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A couple of weeks earlier, the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell toured Hungary’s majestic caves:

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An FB commenter writes to Embassy Budapest:

Ambassador Bell, by not speaking against Hungary’s regressive and inhuman actions on refugees you are proving all the charges that you are an ineffective diplomat and mere window dressing. Perhaps you should join Donald Trump’s campaign. Hungary needs to become the great country she could be, not revert to her infamous policies of the 20th Century.

Two days ago, this photo shocked the world:

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On September 3, the State Department spox tweeted this:

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The latest from Embassy Budapest today is learning more about programs that support the conservation of culture, urging,  “Follow !”

On Facebook, there is a ‪#‎USAfridayQUIZ‬.

That’s all.

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Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program To End on December 31, 2013

— Domani Spero

We previously posted about Iraqi SIVs in September. (See Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program for Iraqi Nationals to End Sept 30, Or How to Save One Interpreter At a Time).  The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Iraqi nationals under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 has now been extended until December 31, 2013.  The US Embassy in Iraq cautions that “No matter what stage of the process you are in, all selected and eligible applicants must obtain their visa by December 31, 2013. There is no guarantee that the SIV program authority will be extended; therefore, you are strongly encouraged to act quickly to ensure you have the best possible chance to complete your case by December 31, 2013.” US Mission Iraq has updated its information on the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program with the following details:

  • Our authority to issue SIVs to principal applicants ends on December 31, 2013. We cannot issue SIVs to any principal applicants after this date.
  • Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs can still be issued SIVs after December 31, 2013.
  • Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.
  • Applicants whose cases are pending for additional documents are advised to send the required documents to our office immediately to the address listed in the instructions we provided to you.  Failure to do so may result in your visa not being issued before the December 31, 2013 deadline (principal applicants).
  • Applicants who have been scheduled for an interview are strongly encouraged to attend their appointment as scheduled.  Given the extremely high demand of appointments, we will be unable to reschedule your appointment, should you be unable to attend your interview.
  • The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains in place and will continue to be available after December 31, 2013 regardless of whether the Iraqi SIV program ends at that time.  The Embassy encourages SIV applicants to seek out information about the USRAP as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit:http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

Click here for more details including frequently asked questions.

Unless extended by Congress, the State Department’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals will also expire in September 2014.

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Iraqi Resettlement in the U.S. — It’s Harder Than You Think

The GAO has released a new report on Iraqi Refugees and Special Immigrant visa holders and the challenges they face in their resettlement in the US as well as in obtaining U.S. Government employment. Quick summary below from the report:

Between fiscal years 2006 and 2009, the United States admitted 34,470 Iraqi refugees under State’s Refugee Admissions Program. In addition, State issued 4,634 SIVs to Iraqis pursuant to two programs, established by Congress to help Iraqis who previously worked for the U.S. government in Iraq. Resettlement agencies, working under cooperative agreements with State, have resettled Iraqis throughout the United States but particularly in California and Michigan.

These agencies have found that Iraqis arrive in the United States with high levels of trauma, injury, and illness, which contribute to the challenges they face in resettling in a new country. In addition, entry-level jobs normally available to refugees are scarce and more competitive in the current economic downturn. Iraqi refugees generally have high levels of education, according to U.S. officials and representatives from the resettlement agencies. Nevertheless, Iraqis have struggled to find entry-level employment in the United States.

Iraqi refugees and SIV holders are eligible for resettlement assistance and public benefits upon arrival in the United States. State provides resettlement agencies $1,800 per person to cover basic housing, food, and assistance for accessing services during their first 30 days in the United States; however, support may continue for up to 90 days if basic needs have not been met. Refugees automatically receive these benefits; Iraqi SIV holders must elect to receive them within 10 days of receiving their visas. In addition, qualified Iraqi refugees and, as a result of December 2009 legislation, qualified SIV holders can receive certain assistance for up to 7 years through public benefits programs. Prior to December 19, 2009, Iraqi SIV holders’ eligibility for public benefits generally ceased after 8 months. Both groups can also receive up to 8 months of cash and medical assistance from HHS if they do not qualify for public benefits. In addition, HHS funds social services, including job preparation, English language classes, and assistance with job interviews, for which Iraqi refugees and SIV holders may be eligible for up to 5 years.

Iraqi refugees and SIV holders, including those who acted as interpreters and linguists for civilian agencies and military commands in Iraq, have limited opportunities for federal employment. Most federal positions in the United States require U.S. citizenship and background investigations; certain positions, including most positions related to Arabic or Iraq, also require security clearances, which noncitizens cannot obtain.
However, GAO did identify positions at DOD’s Defense Language Institute and State’s Foreign Service Institute open to qualified noncitizens. Finally, State and DOD have not established the temporary program intended to offer employment to Iraqi SIV holders under authority granted the agencies in fiscal year 2009 legislation. Although both agencies have positions requiring Arabic language skills, neither identified any unfilled needs that could be met by employing Iraqi SIV holders through this joint program.

Read the entire report below:


Video of the Week: Cameron Sinclair: The refugees of boom-and-bust

At TEDGlobal U, Cameron Sinclair shows the unreported cost of real estate megaprojects gone bust: thousands of migrant construction laborers left stranded and penniless. To his fellow architects, he says there is only one ethical response.

After training as an architect, Cameron Sinclair (then age 24) joined Kate Stohr to found Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit that helps architects apply their skills to humanitarian efforts. Starting with just $700 and a simple web site in 1999, AFH has grown into an international hub for humanitarian design, offering innovative solutions to housing problems in all corners of the globe. (Video duration: 3:06)

Whether rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Bam in Iran, designing a soccer field doubling as an HIV/AIDS clinic in Africa, housing refugees on the Afghan border, or helping Katrina victims rebuild, Architecture for Humanity works by Sinclair’s mantra: “Design like you give a damn.” (Sinclair and Stohr cowrote a book by the same name, released in 2006.)

A regular contributor to the sustainability blog Worldchanging.com, Sinclair is now working on the Open Architecture Network, born from the wish he made when he accepted the 2006 TED Prize: to build a global, open-source network where architects, governments and NGOs can share and implement design plans to house the world.

“Cameron Sinclair is doing his best to save the world, one emergency shelter and mobile AIDS clinic at a time.” Washington Post

Related Links:

From ted.com.

Officially In: Eric P. Schwartz to PRM

President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Eric P. Schwartz, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

Eric P. Schwartz is Executive Director of the Connect U.S. Fund, a foundation/NGO initiative focused on foreign and international affairs, and Visiting Lecturer of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Between 2005 and 2007, he served as UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, working to promote coordination, accountability to donors and beneficiaries, and best practices in the recovery effort. Prior to that, he served as lead expert on conflict prevention and reconstruction for the Congressionally mandated Task Force on United Nations Reform, and as a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Between 1993 and 2001, Schwartz served at the National Security Council, ultimately as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. For eight years, he was the NSC official responsible for refugee issues, and managed Administration policy responses on the rescue of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq, the resettlement of Vietnamese boat people, and safe haven for Haitian refugees and Kosovars.

Prior to that, he served at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he was responsible for most of the Committee’s work on Asian refugee issues, including Vietnamese boat people, Laotian refugees and the U.S. immigration issues relating to the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong.


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Officially In: Eric P. Schwartz to PRM

President Obama has announced his intent to nominate Eric P. Schwartz, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

Eric P. Schwartz is Executive Director of the Connect U.S. Fund, a foundation/NGO initiative focused on foreign and international affairs, and Visiting Lecturer of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Between 2005 and 2007, he served as UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, working to promote coordination, accountability to donors and beneficiaries, and best practices in the recovery effort. Prior to that, he served as lead expert on conflict prevention and reconstruction for the Congressionally mandated Task Force on United Nations Reform, and as a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Between 1993 and 2001, Schwartz served at the National Security Council, ultimately as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. For eight years, he was the NSC official responsible for refugee issues, and managed Administration policy responses on the rescue of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq, the resettlement of Vietnamese boat people, and safe haven for Haitian refugees and Kosovars.

Prior to that, he served at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he was responsible for most of the Committee’s work on Asian refugee issues, including Vietnamese boat people, Laotian refugees and the U.S. immigration issues relating to the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong.


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