JW Files Suit For ‘Refugee Travel Loans’ Information
Tightening our immigration and refugee programs is a matter of national security (despite what some out-of-control judges may think), and it is also a matter of cost.
In this regard, we have filed a lawsuit against the State Department for records on the number of “Refugee Travel Loans” issued by State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration to the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration from 2010 to the present.
We are also seeking the number of loans defaulted upon and the amount of money written off on each defaulted loan. We filed the suit on January 24, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-00157)).
Judicial Watch filed the suit after the State Department failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on February 5, 2016, seeking the following:
- All records reflecting the number of Refugee Travel Loans furnished by the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) per year; the number of travel loans that are defaulted upon per year; and the amount of money written off per defaulted loan.
The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration provides funding for aid and relief work abroad and the bureau’s admissions office handles settling refugees in the United States. According to the agency’s website, it spent nearly $545 million “to provide new beginnings to the world’s most vulnerable refugees” in 2016 and more than $2.8 billion to “humanitarian assistance overseas.” It provided $103 million directly to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.
The International Organization for Migration, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has an annual budget of $1.4 billion and (as of 2014) a staff of 9,000 throughout the world. According to the International Organization for Migration website, the organization provides interest-free loans “furnished by the Department of State” to “all refugees arriving in the United States:”
All refugees arriving in the United States are offered interest-free travel loans by IOM. Refugees who accept these travel loans are required to sign a promissory note prior to departure, committing themselves to repayment of the debt within 46 months after arrival in the United States.
IOM arranges for refugee travel using funds furnished by the Department of State, and is mandated to subsequently effect collections on behalf of the Department of State. Repayments made by refugees toward their loans are returned to the Department of State for use by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) to defray the cost of future refugee travel.
In July 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution making the International Organization for Migration part of the UN.
Even The Washington Post reported that the nine resettlement agencies contracted by the State Department to help resettle refugees in the U.S. actually make more than $5 million a year in commissions on refugee debt collection.
The State Department has stonewalled our request for refugee loan information and associated taxpayer losses for a year – an unlawful delay that screams “cover up.” This is an opportunity for the Trump State Department to come clean and clean up this refugee welfare program.
And there’s a lot more for the Trump administration to clean up when it comes to “refugee loans.” In June 2016, Judicial Watch reported:
The U.S. government gives refugees on public assistance special “loans” of up to $15,000 to start a business but fails to keep track of defaults that could translate into huge losses for American taxpayers, records obtained by Judicial Watch reveal. The cash is distributed through a program called Microenterprise Development run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement.
HHS is not the only government agency doling out huge sums of cash for this cause, though its focus on refugees appears to be unique. Others, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) also dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars to various microenterprise causes. For instance, in one recent year alone USAID spent $223 million on microenterprise development activities, according to figures released by the agency. The USDA also allocates large sums to provide loans and grants to microenterprise development through a special “Rural Microloan Revolving Fund” and the DOL regularly pours lots of money into various microenterprise projects that are promoted as workforce investments in areas with high rates of poverty.
So the debate about refugees is more than about keeping dangerous refugees out, but there is also the matter of asking just how much it costs to make politicians to feel good about themselves by using our tax dollars to provide special assistance to these foreign nationals.
Mexican Drug Cartel Operating in U.S. Suburb More than 1,500 Miles from Border
President Donald Trump made it clear during his campaign that one of the reasons for building a wall along the Mexican border is to disrupt the flow of heroin into the United States. This heroin is killing Americans in record numbers, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The crisis isn’t limited to areas adjacent to the border; it has now spread to communities far beyond, as our Corruption Chronicles blog reports this week:
Illustrating that the Mexican drug crisis is having a far-reaching impact on the U.S., a heroin ring operated by a Mexican cartel was recently busted in an American suburb more than 1,500 miles from the southern border. In the last few years Judicial Watch has reported extensively on the massive amounts of drugs—especially heroin—that get smuggled into the U.S. by Mexican traffickers who later use street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs to distribute them throughout the country. Undoubtedly, these enterprises benefitted tremendously from the Obama administration’s open border policies.
Now we have confirmation that these illicit drug operations have penetrated areas far from the border. This case comes out of Rowan County, North Carolina, where a local news report reveals that authorities began targeting large-scale heroin distribution in 2013. Last week three people with ties to a Mexican drug cartel were arrested in the county. Large quantities of heroin, handguns, a rifle, ammunition, numerous telephones, cash and drug paraphernalia were confiscated by police. Authorities say the Mexican heroin trafficking ring was based in the Charlotte-Matthews area and has been supplying heroin to Rowan County for more than a decade. “Over the past two months, investigators purchased large amounts of heroin from two people working for this Mexican National Drug Trafficking Organization,” the news report states.
This is hardly earth-shattering news. A number of federal audits have documented the enormous amounts of drugs that annually enter the U.S. through the porous southern border, even as Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary famously proclaimed the region to be as secure as it’s ever been. One report, published just a few months ago, referred to western states as a “heroin transit zone” because Mexican cartels move such large amounts of drugs through the Southwest border. That government assessment disclosed that there at least eight major Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in the United States with the Sinaloa Cartel being the most active. Heroin is the most popular drug and it’s entering the country through Mexico in record numbers. From 2010 to 2015 heroin seizures in the Mexican border region more than doubled from 1,016 kg to 2,524 kg, according to government figures.
The trend mirrors the increase in overall seizures throughout the U.S. as well. For instance, federal arrests and prosecutions of heroin traffickers have skyrocketed with 6,353 heroin-related arrests in 2015. Additionally, the number of individuals sentenced for heroin trafficking offenses in federal courts has increased by almost 50%, the government confirms. In 2015 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a report disclosing that the majority of illegal drugs in the United States come from Mexico and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest criminal threat to the United States. They’re classified as Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs) by the government and they’ve long smuggled in huge quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
A big part of the problem is that the drug trafficking is being leveraged by corrupt public officials in the U.S., a years-long Judicial Watch investigation has found. Undoubtedly, cartel violence is real but truckloads of drugs are getting across the country because U.S. officials at the municipal, state and federal level are turning a blind eye or actively participating and cooperating with cartels. As part of an ongoing probe, Judicial Watch has provided the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley with evidence, including the sworn testimony of law enforcement officers, of this corruption and criminality in all levels of government. Learn more about Judicial Watch’s probe here.
Do not imagine that our porous border is a problem for someone else because you don’t live there. The quadrupling of deaths from heroine overdosing has occurred in every part of the country and among every race and age group. We have covered this extensively, as you can see here, and we will not let up.
California Crony Corruption Costs Taxpayers
Americans of almost every political stripe – liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican – hate the “revolving door,” which is the shuttling of former government officials into private jobs where they use their formerly official connections to enrich themselves.
This week, we released documents that the Washington revolving door extends all the way to Sacramento, California, and back again. JW pried loose records from the California Legislature Joint Rules Committee revealing that the legislature will pay former Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm $25,000 a month for 40 hours of work each month for providing “legal strategies regarding potential actions of the federal government that may be of concern to the State of California.” The contract precludes requiring the Holder firm to do any other litigation or advocacy work.
The records came in response to a January 9, 2017, Legislative Open Records Act request for:
All contracts between the California Legislature and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. or Covington and Burling.
All communications between the California Legislature and former U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. or Covington and Burling about the Legislature’s retention of Holder and/or Covington and Burling.
On January 4, California legislative leaders announced that they had hired Holder to assist them in anticipated federal challenges to several state policies, including those on climate change and immigration.
In a statement, Kevin de Leon, California Senate President Pro Tempore said, “With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead.” The California attorney general, who represents the State’s interest in court, already has a budget of $190 million. So, yes, taxpayers are being double-charged for lawyers they don’t need!
In the Covington contract provided to Judicial Watch, Holder’s firm limited its activities to providing “legal strategies” and stipulated that it would require a “new engagement letter” for any activities beyond providing such advice:
We are pleased to confirm that we will serve as Special Counsel to the California State Senate and the California State Assembly (collectively “the Legislature”) in helping the Legislature develop legal strategies regarding potential actions of the federal government that may be of concern to the State of California…
Should the Legislature wish to retain us to work on any particular litigation or other matter or public policy advocacy work, that would not fall within the scope of this undertaking and would require a new engagement letter.
Holder was one of Obama’s longest-serving and most crooked Cabinet members. On June 28, 2012, he became the first U.S. Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress on both civil and criminal grounds. The contempt charge came in connection with Holder’s refusal to turn over documents on Operation Fast and Furious, the Obama administration’s gunwalking scandal. Judicial Watch has since exposed numerous atrocities associated with this scandal.
Under Holder the Justice Department dismissed its voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party. The Justice Department originally filed its lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party following an incident that took place outside of a Philadelphia polling station on November 4, 2008. According to multiple witnesses, members of the New Black Panthers blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. A video of the incident, showing a member of the New Black Panther Party brandishing police-style baton weapon, was widely distributed on the Internet.
In March 2011, we sued the Holder Justice Department for records detailing its contacts with NAACP about the dismissal of the lawsuit.
In 2013, the Holder Justice Department was caught spying on The Associated Press by collecting months’ worth of phone records of reporters and editors. Fox News’ James Rosen was among those targeted by Holder’s Justice Department. Holder left the Justice Department in 2015 to rejoin Covington & Burling.
So you can see why many are outraged. California state legislators are wasting tax dollars to bankroll another corrupt politician – Eric Holder – under the pretense of attacking the Trump administration. This expensive contract is crony corruption pure and simple.
The swamp of public corruption has taken over California.
We aren’t finished with our investigation, so stay tuned.