The Impact of the Refugee Issue on Montgomery County
By Ed Amatetti
On February 3, there was an “Overview and Discussion of Refugee and Asylee Resettlement in Montgomery County” event in Rockville, primarily designed to better inform refugees/asylees and social service groups of the refugee resettlement programs in Montgomery County. Thus, for informational purposes, the following is a brief background of the following: 1) the refugee resettlement process; 2) the source of recent refugees to the U.S.; 3) the impact on Maryland and Montgomery County; 4) refugee law and its relationship to the U.S. Constitution.
The Refugee/Asylee Resettlement Process 101
First, by way of definition, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 established that: a refugee is someone unable to protect themselves because of persecution, or a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular group. Asylee are individuals who come to the United State of their own volition, and then apply for asylum. They may come as students, tourists, or even undocumented. By law, asylees must also establish they are being persecuted for reasons that apply to those seeking to gain refugee status.
The process for refugee resettlement begins outside the United States. It generally takes 18 to 24 months to complete the referral and screening process. (I have no idea what shortcuts Obama has in mind to vet 10,000 to 100,000 Middle Eastern refugees – but there does seem to be quite a disconnect here.) The process is administered by the Department of State (for identification and overseas processing), Homeland Security (for background/security checks), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (for post-arrival integration). It is certain that that this process is NOT occurring for the thousands of “unaccompanied children” and illegals coming through our Mexican border – more on this later).
In Maryland, the Maryland State Office for Refugees and Asylees (MORA) collaborates with resettlement agencies and local social services departments in Montgomery County and other MD counties for employment, English language learning, case management, transitional cash services, and employment services. Private charity and religious groups support these government efforts. Such is a very brief overview of our county’s refugee program.
Resettlement in Maryland by the Numbers
During the 5-year period from 2010-2014, a total 6,716 refugees from 50 countries were resettled in Maryland. Of these, 43% resettled in Baltimore City, 34% in Montgomery County; 9% in Prince George’s, and 14% in other parts of Maryland. Thus, Montgomery, Baltimore City, and Prince George’s, which comprise 42.7% of Maryland’s total population took on 86% of resettled refugees. Similarly, of 3,955 asylees from 73 countries, a disproportionate 55% resettled in Montgomery, 18% in Prince George’s, and 12% in Baltimore City, for a total of 85% in the three jurisdictions.
Altogether, Montgomery County, with 17.2% of the Maryland’s population, took on 41.6% of all resettled refugees and asylees – all while getting back pennies on the dollar the county sends to Annapolis in taxes each April. Beleaguered Baltimore City with 10.4% of the state’s population and a disproportionate share of poverty and resource constraints, took on 31.5% of the resettled group.
Where Do Refugees and Asylees Come From?
Of the 2,256 refugees resettled in Montgomery County, most were from Iraq (603), Myanmar (333), Afghanistan (273), Eritrea (266), Congo (164), Ethiopia (121), and Bhutan (108). Most of these are Muslim-dominated countries. Of the 2,181 asylees resettled in the county, most were from Ethiopia (968), Cameroon (440), Eritrea (138), Congo (60), and Togo (60). Refugees from Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan suffer from Muslim persecution of minority religions. Those from Myanmar and Bhutan suffer from Buddhist persecution of Christian and Muslim minorities. Myanmar competes with the ISIS “caliphate” as the worst region in terms of genocide, persecution, and numbers of displaced people. In Eritrea, the cause of refugees is Muslim persecution of Christians.
What About the Latin American Refugees?
Only 10 to 15% percent of Montgomery County refugees are reported to be from Latin American countries. But, this is because a significant number are here illegally or have come as “unaccompanied children.” On Nov. 20, 2014, President Obama announced an Executive Order allowing “young” children from Latin America to apply for refugee status without demonstrating persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular group. A search of detention center images indicates that a considerable number of these “young” children weigh more than 200 pounds and had been shaving for a long time.
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 1,458 unaccompanied children were resettled in Montgomery County during 2014-15. If you are wondering whether Montgomery County is taking on a disproportionate burden, there are many counties that have accepted a larger number, since California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois have accepted more than 60% of the total. But the distribution of the population is changing. Maryland, along with Idaho, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Virginia are among the states whose share has recently increased the most.
Very Brief Summary of “Refugee Law” and Its Relation to the U.S. Constitution
(To the extent that the Constitution still has an active role in guiding our government)
The law that affects refugees the most is the Refugee Act of 1980, which gave the Executive branch the authority to determine the annual number and source of refugees for resettlement in the U.S. The law includes the words, “in consultation with the Senate Judiciary Committee,” but does not require any real “advise and consent” input from Congress. This is known as Presidential determination. It appears to be yet another example of the legislative branch voluntarily giving up its Constitutional powers, presumably in the name of progress.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization,” which gives foreign-born residents of the United States the “privileges of native” born residents. Naturalization, of course, is different from immigration, as they are already residents. About “immigration,” the Constitution says nothing specifically. There is a reason for this. The Founders lived during an era that was much more steeped in logic than our current culture – they even took logic coursework in school. They realized that control over who can and cannot cross a border was an incidental – that is, lesser and directly required — power to the specifically delegated power over Naturalization in Article 1. Since, nothing else is said about immigration in the Constitution, the increasingly ignored 10th Amendment applies. Even the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center admits on its website that “Congress’ power over naturalization is an exclusive power.”
Like so many other aspects of today’s government, our immigration and naturalization policies have certainly run amuck.