On June 8, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who was recently selected as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, introduced H.R. 2826, the "Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2017", along with co-sponsors Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The bill has not yet been favorably reported out, although it has been considered by the Committee on the Judiciary at least twice — most recently on June 28.
I will not analyze the bill in this blog, because it is almost precisely the same as a bill that Rep. Labrador introduced in the previous Congress. As I said then: it is an excellent bill that does much to shore up many of the weak points in existing refugee law.
And that is the point of this blog. We keep seeing retreads of many well-thought-out bills having to do with immigration that were previously introduced and yet they seem, again and again, to go nowhere. While that may have been inevitable (however disappointing) during the Obama administration, there is no longer any excuse for congressional inactivity.
Rep. Labrador's bill is timely. As a nation, we have continued on auto pilot where refugees are concerned, all through the brouhaha over the president's "travel ban" executive order (EO), which has received a reprieve (of sorts) from the Supreme Court until it considers the matter in full this coming fall (see here and here). In the meantime, refugees continue to enter the United States and, although the figures may be down, as my colleague Nayla Rush has recently observed, we shouldn't invest too much confidence in those numbers remaining low or, frankly, in the quality of the screening that is being done prior to their admission.
What it comes down to is this: If this administration would do what it needs — and promised —to do, by obliging the Department of Homeland Security to re-think and overhaul its vetting processes, both generally and specifically where refugees are concerned, then the EO would fade into secondary importance.
But equally important is congressional participation in the process by doing what it should and must, and that is to pass amending legislation that helps pave the way for the kinds of actions that the executive branch needs to take in order to secure the homeland. After all, isn't that what we pay our legislators to do?