Republicans accused President Obama this week of “hypocrisy” after his administration sent threatening letters to states warning they could lose federal funding if they don’t cooperate with his plan to resettle 10,000 refugees this fiscal year.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that was stunning because the president has repeatedly refused to pull federal funding from locales that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation agents — so-called sanctuary cities.
In fact, Mr. Obama has threatened to veto legislation that would force him to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, saying it would “lead to mistrust” between the illegal immigrants and state and local police.
But at a time when Americans already deeply distrust his refugee program, his administration warned governors Wednesday that they could lose federal money if they don’t cooperate in helping resettle Syrians in their states.
“States that continue to use ORR funding must ensure that assistance and services are delivered without regard to race, religion, nationality, sex or political opinion,” the Office of Refugee Resettlement said in a stern warning.
A majority of the country’s governors have said they will try to refuse to cooperate with resettlement efforts after the Paris terrorist attack earlier this month, in which one of the suicide bombers is believed to have sneaked into Europe as a Syrian refugee.
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That attack has turned the country against Mr. Obama’s plans here in the U.S., with voters deeply skeptical of the president’s assurances that he can weed out would-be terrorists and other bad actors from a population that even his own top security officials admit they have trouble learning about.
The president has lashed out at his opponents, accusing them of Islamophobia and saying they are betraying America’s origins as a country of immigrants.
Republicans, though, were stunned to see Mr. Obama threaten to withhold funding from states that refuse to cooperate on refugees, when he’s spent the last six years refusing to follow that same policy against sanctuary cities that won’t cooperate on deporting illegal immigrants.
“It’s hypocritical for Obama Administration officials to threaten enforcement action against these states when they refuse to enforce the vast majority of our immigration laws, such as cracking down on sanctuary cities that openly defy federal law and endanger the American people,” Mr. Goodlatte said after the Obama warning to governors Wednesday.
The sanctuary city debate has raged inside the administration for years.
Immigration agents pushed for years to punish states that refused to follow federal law and cooperate by turning over illegal immigrants the agents asked be held for deportation. The Justice Department, however, led by then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., refused to approve any punishment.
Sanctuary cities burst into the news this summer with the death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, killed as she was walking on the San Francisco waterfront with her father. The man accused of the killing is an illegal immigrant who’d been deported five times before, and was free in the country because San Francisco sheriff’s deputies, following the county’s sanctuary policy, had refused to turn him back over to federal agents earlier this year.
The House passed a bill that would have withheld money from several Justice Department grants programs from sanctuary cities and states, but Senate Democrats launched a filibuster to halt it. Mr. Obama had threatened to veto it anyway, saying it was bad policy to withhold money.