Johnson, Committee Hold Hearing on ISIS Threat and Refugee Resettlement

WASHINGTON — Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Thursday on ISIS’ threat to the United States and its impact on refugee resettlement. “We need to understand the threat that we face — it is real and it is growing,” Johnson said in his opening remarks. 

Johnson is the Senate sponsor of bicameral legislation that requires supplemental certifications and background investigations on certain refugees before they are admitted into the United States. The bill passed the House Thursday on a veto-proof bipartisan majority. 

Thursday’s Senate hearing included testimony from Ann Richard, assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration at the U.S. Department of State, and Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Johnson said beforehand that the hearing was intended to lay out the reality of the refugee situation and exactly what safeguards the government is using to vet refugees. After the hearing, he noted that Rodriguez testified his agency expects a 21% increase in its caseload this fiscal year and a 43% increase in 2017. “I would be concerned that their management solution to that would be to streamline the process,” he said. That’s why the proposed legislation requires a meaningful certification that federal agencies follow agreed-on procedures. 

“That gives the American public the faith that we’re not going to short-circuit the vetting process,” Johnson said.   

Richard and Rodriguez, for their part, admitted that the American people need answers when it comes to our refugee vetting process. “The questions you have asked of us are ones that we needed to be asked,” Rodriguez said. 

Johnson said the refugee program is not the nation’s only vulnerability. “What we have learned during twelve separate hearings by this committee is that our borders are not secure. Whether it’s our southern and northern borders, the Visa Waiver Program or the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, it is my job and the job of this committee to fully examine vulnerabilities that could lead to horrific atrocities like the recent Paris attacks.” 

Also testifying at the hearing were Peter Bergen, director of National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, Brian Jenkins, senior advisor to the president of RAND Corp., Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and former assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration at the U.S. Department of State, and Lavinia Limon, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. 

Watch the full hearing here.

Chairman Johnson’s opening statement can be found here.

Witness testimony can be found here.


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