The Obama administration (including the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health & Human Services) holds an annual meeting for public input on the refugee resettlement program. The attendance has been generally confined to representatives of the organizations that assist in locating refugees, preparing them for travel to the U.S. and are involved in assisting them in resettling in US communities. FAIR has usually been the only dissident voice in these meetings calling for reforms to focus the intake to true refugees. There has been no video or sound recording of these events and no conferencing to allow any broader public awareness or participation in these meetings.
This year the meeting was more raucous than usual. Besides FAIR’s statement calling for reforms to the program, there were 21 written statements from citizens around the country calling for a moratorium on new refugees or a much reduced level of entries. Additionally, three other organizations attending the meeting gave presentations calling for changes in the resettlement program. Both the public written submissions and the increased in-person statements critical of the program were unprecedented.
Especially interesting was a written statement provided by Theodore Gatsas, mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire, calling for a temporary halt in sending new refugees to that city because a saturation point has been reached and further refugees would undermine the ability of the community to properly assist those already there to assimilate into the community. Mr. Gatsas wrote, “it is for these reasons that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the local governing body of the City of Manchester, voted on July 5, 2011, to request a moratorium on refugee resettlement in the City of Manchester. This action was taken because, as a City, we feel the need to ‘catch up’.”