Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision on December 24 that would say yes to more refugees in Ohio would allow the federal government to resettle them from any country, including from an estimated 300 to 720 refugees from the Middle East that the government of Australia has refused to accept.
Because of the Australian government’s refusal to accept these refugees, many of whom reportedly have mental health issues, they have remained housed for several years in refugee camps on the Papua New Guinea island of Manus, and Nauru, a small island country more than 1,000 miles north of the coast of Australia. President Obama agreed to accept 1,250 of these refugees in 2016. Since then, 530 of these refugees have been resettled in the United States under the Trump administration.
In June, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported, “Nearly 300 refugees will soon move to the US under the resettlement deal and [Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter] Dutton said he was hopeful that figure may climb further.”
Some – possibly all – of the remaining refugees out of the original 1,250 refugees Australia refused to accept that President Obama promised to take may also ultimately be resettled in the United States.
The point was first made by Pat Hamsa on Thursday in this article at DailyRollCall.com.
The Ohio Star asked Gov. DeWine’s office this question:
According to the U.S. State Department’s report to Congress, up to 7,500 of the 18,000 refugees who will be admitted to the United States in FY 2020 could include dangerous refugees from the Middle East currently located in Australia, Nauru, or Papua New Guinea. Was the governor aware of this when he decided to say yes to refugees in Ohio?
DeWine’s office replied to The Star’s question without answering the question. They said:
President Trump has once again indicated that he will allow a certain number of bona fide refugees into the United States – with refugees being defined as those who are “of special humanitarian concern to the United States and demonstrate that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.” This is a continuation of a policy that both Republican and Democrat presidents have followed for over 70 years. And in keeping with it, the State of Ohio has a long and successful history of welcoming refugees from all corners of the globe and has a well-developed support network to help them assimilate, led primarily by our faith-based communities.
Refugees come to this country legally. These are not illegal or unlawful immigrants, but rather individuals who have gone through a lengthy, complex, and careful vetting process, including security and health checks, to confirm their eligibility for entrance into our country. The Trump Administration has determined that they are truly deserving of refugee status, they are truly victims of oppression, and they are coming into our country and Ohio lawfully.
Another Republican governor, Bill Lee of Tennessee, who agreed to accept refugees also has dodged questions on whether he has opened his state up to these Middle East refugees.
DeWine’s office says the refugees will be vetted, but one may ask how effective the vetting is.
By the way, “the data U.S. officials use to screen these refugees is transmitted from a private refugee-resettlement contractor,” some of the same ones who have a financial incentive to resettle as many refugees as possible.
Just as mental health care is an issue, so is physical care.
As The Star reported on Jan. 6, foreign-born residents in Ohio have a higher-than-national average of tuberculosis cases.
Also, there are 22 countries that since 1998 have been considered to be the TB “high burden” countries, according to TB Facts.
Ohio went from 149 reported TB cases in 2017 to 178 in 2018, a 19.5 percent jump, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of TB incidences in the same period increased from 1.3 (per 100,000) to 1.5, a 19.2 percent change.
The CDC said that while cases of TB in Ohio in 2017 were below the national average rate of 14.4 cases per 100,000, that was not the case for foreign-born residents, who had an average of 20.1 cases per 100,000, placing them above the national average.
Despite the health care burdens, DeWine is one of more than 30 governors who have agreed to accept more refugees under Trump’s plan for states to opt in, The Star’s Jan. 6 story said.
Ohio already has been a national leader in accepting refugees.
It was among the top states in the nation for accepting refugees in Fiscal Year 2019 — it took in 1,400, according to data by the Pew Research Center. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2019.
In just eight months of FY 2017 (October 2016-April 2017), Ohio took in 2,152 refugees, Pew Research Center said.
The Star on Dec. 30 reported that refugee resettlement in Ohio is up 22 percent under Gov. DeWine.
You can see the breakdown of refugees resettled to Ohio over the last two years.
An estimated 3 million refugees have been resettled in the United States under the Refugee Admission Program (RAP), which was established under the Refugee Act of 1980, which was signed by President Jimmy Carter.
Under that law, the maximum number of refugees authorized to resettle in the United States each fiscal year is determined each September when the president announces a refugee “cap” in a formal presidential determination letter submitted to Congress.
President Obama set the refugee “cap” at 90,000 in FY 2016, the last full year of his administration. (October 1, 2015 to September 30,2016).
In September of 2019, President Trump set the refugee “cap” at 18,000 for FY 2020, which began on October 1, 2019 and ends on September 30, 2020, a reduction from the refugee “cap” of 22,000 the president set for FY 2019.
Eight months from now, in September of 2020, President Trump will set the refugee “cap” for FY 2021, a number that is expected to be at or below the FY 2020 “cap” of 18,000. Then in September of 2021, whoever wins the November 2020 presidential election will set the refugee “cap” for FY 2022. All of the major contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have promised to increase the FY 2020 refugee “cap” to 100,000 or more, likely greater than a five-fold increase from the FY 2020 “cap” established by President Trump.
Of equal importance, under a Democratic administration, the leading countries of origin for refugees admitted into the United States are likely to revert to the pattern of the final year Obama administration (FY 2016), when the vast majority of refugees resettled in the United States (more than 75 percent, or 70,306 out of 89,995 according to the Department of State’s wrapsnet.org website) came from seven Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sudan.
– – –
Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.