Possible Obama Scheme to Designate Huge Numbers of Latin American Illegal Immigrants as “Refugees” Would Violate Limits on Refugees Set by Obama Himself

Such a Strategy to Circumvent Congress Would Violate Refugee Procedures Set by U.S. Law and Harm Immigration Chances of Desperate Refugee Applicants from Other Continents


Washington, D.C. – President Obama reportedly is considering designating Latin American illegal aliens as “refugees” from gangs and drug lords to justify an executive action blocking them from deportation and providing them with a means of seeking American citizenship.1

This scheme, if imposed, would seriously disrupt carefully-crafted rules and limits for accepting refugees into the United States and put refugee candidates from other parts of the world, such as Africa, at a severe disadvantage.

Such a scheme would violate a limit on refugees set by Obama himself. It also would upend highly specialized conditions and procedures related to the acceptance of refugees set by U.S. law.

It would also create a situation in which potential refugee candidates from other regions are handicapped because they are often located at great distances and separated by oceans, as opposed to being smuggled across a border. This includes, but is not limited to, child refugees fleeing from Boko Haram in Nigeria, potential victims of ISIS murderers in Iraq, families displaced by the Syrian civil war, pro-democracy Afghans targeted by the Taliban and pro-democracy activists escaping from Communist China.

Facts and Figures

  • On October 2, 2013, President Obama issued a “memorandum for the Secretary of State” that, in keeping with the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act, set a limit for the admission of refugees for the 2014 fiscal year that was “justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.” It was capped at 70,000 persons. This amount was divided among regions, with Africa allowed 15,000 refugees and Latin America and the Caribbean collectively allowed only 5,000. An additional 2,000-person “unallocated reserve” could be applied to unintended need as well as reallocation of regional amounts that respected the President’s cap of 70,000 (and with Congress being apprised of the reallocation).2
  • A cap on refugees is usually set by presidential proclamation in late September or early October after a public comment period (which ended on May 29, 2014 for fiscal year 2015).3 During the Obama Administration, this cap has shrunk from 80,000 in 2010 to 70,000 in 2014. The Immigration and Nationality Act generally defines a refugee as someone unwilling to return to their home country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on factors including race, religion, ethnicity, politics and social associations.4
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security states that a refugee is defined under law as a person who is “located outside the United States,” has “special humanitarian concern,” “demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear prosecution” and “is admissible to the United States.”5 Qualified candidates must receive a “referral” to the USCIS from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and be processed and interviewed for possible acceptance while residing outside of United States borders.6 Should someone be accepted, he “will receive a medical exam [and] cultural orientation.”7 There are nine federal agencies that meet weekly on refugee resettlement issues to consider each case individually and “match the particular needs of each incoming refugee.”8
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 3 million refugees have been resettled in the United States since 1975.9 Pew Research estimated that, as of March of 2012, there were 11.7 million people residing illegally in the United States.10 “Resettlement opportunities,” the State Department reports, are only available to the “most vulnerable refugees.”11
  • A draft memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, written on May 30 by Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello and obtained by the Associated Press, estimated around 90,000 children in particular may illegally cross America’s southern border before the end of the 2014 fiscal year on September 30, 2014. That number, Vitiello suggested, could rise to 142,000 in the 2015 fiscal year.12 As of late June, approximately 57,000 unaccompanied children were actually apprehended by law enforcement, and there were more children in custody who were not included in this count because they travelled with family.13 After meeting with Latin American leaders in part about the immigration crisis, Obama said on July 25 that “[t]here may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family may be eligible for.”14 He also said his administration is considering some sort of program for young people to request refugee status.
  • The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is trying to alter its normal definition of refugee to force the United States to accept Latin American illegal immigrants. A proposed resolution would classify crime in Latin America as violence akin to war, thus alleging that the United States “should recognize that this is a refugee situation which implies that they shouldn’t be automatically sent to their home countries but rather receive international protections.”15 This is significant because “Central Americans would be among the first modern migrants considered refugees because they are fleeing violence and extortion at the hands of criminal gangs.”16

  • If refugee status can actually be justified, it should be granted by Mexico, the country through which illegal immigrants from other Latin American countries normally pass. Mexico recently enacted a widely-praised refugee relief policy. Signed by then-President Felipe Calderon in 2011, the “Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection” binds Mexico to abide by international immigration treaties and, according to the U.S. High Commission on Refugees, “will grant complementary protection for people not considered as refugees but whose life has been threatened or could be at risk of torture, ill treatment or other forms of cruel inhuman treatment.”17 The non-governmental U.S. Commission for Refugees and Immigrants called Mexico’s refugee law a “groundbreaking effort” that “grant[s] access to health services, health insurance, education, recognition of academic credentials and permission to work.”18 This seems more generous than potential amnesty offers from the Obama Administration, which allegedly would deny illegal immigrants access to entitlements such as ObamaCare.19

  • There are an estimated 11 million refugees on the continent of Africa,20 many of whom are considered to be mistreated and abused by their host governments. The non-governmental U.S. Commission for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) gave Kenya, Congo (Kinshasa) and South Africa failing grades for “not adequately protecting refugees from violence and forcing refugees back across the border.” Abuses in Africa that befall refugees include arbitrary detainment and denial of judicial access and safety. The USCRI added, “the United Nations, as well as the United States and other western governments, have further failed refugees across Africa and other parts of the world by allowing them to be warehoused in camps for 10, 20, 30 or more years without such basic human rights as freedom of movement, protection from violence and ability to support their families.”21

  • A security analysis of illegal immigration across the southern United States border compiled by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) reports that the flow of foreigners is “exacerbated by misperceptions of recent U.S. immigration policies among migrants.”22 EPIC reported a U.S. Border Patrol survey of 230 illegals caught in the Rio Grande Valley found 219 saying the main reason they violated U.S. immigration law “was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos” to those who successfully cross the border.23 Smugglers “have dispensed misinformation to convince migrants that they have a clear path to U.S. citizenship if they make it into the United States.”24 The analysis also reports “homicide trends and migrant interviews suggest violence is likely not the principal factor during the increase in [illegal alien children] immigration. While [Border Patrol] data from early fiscal year 2011 indicates a steady increase in… immigration, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime statistics — within the same timeframe — show a decline in per capita homicide roles in these three countries; El Salvador saw the sharpest decline, followed by Honduras and Guatemala, respectively.”25
  • What Project 21 Members Are Saying About the Obama Administration Using Refugee Status to Achieve Amnesty
  • “Fleeing gender discrimination in the Middle East? Afraid you are going to be killed for your religious beliefs in Asia? Displaced by war in Africa? It seems your best bet for getting resettled in the United States may not be abiding by our government’s rules and putting yourself on a long waiting list at a refugee camp, but to buy a plane ticket to Mexico and smuggle yourself across America’s porous southern border. President Obama appears to be on the verge of yet another unlawful act in which he will once again ignore his duty to work with the people’s elected representatives in Congress. If the President isn’t going to follow the rule of law for what is obviously crass political gain, why should anyone else feel bound to it these days?” — Project 21’s Shelby Emmett, an attorney, who dealt with immigration issues as a staff member for the U.S. Congress
  • When a leader makes a mistake he owns up to it, apologizes for it and attempts to fix it. But when a politician makes a mistake, he often doubles down on that mistake. It’s absurd for President Obama to even contemplate calling illegal aliens refugees. It violates his own order placing limits on refugees from South America. When I lived in the Persian Gulf, my friend Mohammad converted to Christianity. People found out, and they attempted to kill him on more than one occasion. He was a true asylum-seeker, yet our doors were closed to him. America is a wonderful country endowed with gifts from our creator, and I understand why people flock here. But, under these circumstances, how do we countenance telling the real refugees ‘sorry, no vacancies’ while throwing the door wide open for those who might be considered more politically advantageous?” — Project 21’s Council Nedd II, an Archbishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church. Archbishop Nedd is chairman of In God We Trust and serves as the Archbishop for Abu Dhabi. He has been involved in several relief missions to the Middle East and Africa.

“I believe President Obama and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle firmly believe they will gain politically if they grant some sort of amnesty to the million of illegal aliens who are here and those still trying to come here. But nowhere in their narrative have they talked about how this relates to legal immigration and legitimate refugees. During my time in the United States Navy, I worked alongside dozens of legal immigrants who wanted to give back to our nation. Amnesty will be nothing more than a slap in the face to those who went through the legal process of immigration. And using a political trick to provide cover for those smuggled into this county is a mockery of a refugee policy meant to save our planet’s most vulnerable souls. This shows the laziness of politicians who seem to have forgotten long ago how to govern and protect out nation. Unabated, blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants is a complete scam.” — Project 21’s Kevin Martin, who took part in refugee operations in Bosnia and Kosovo while serving in the U.S. Navy

“President Obama and other White House officials claim young illegal aliens who flooded across our southern border should be granted refugee status because they fled violence and poverty in their home nations. When have these conditions not existed in places such as Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala? This, the open-borders crowd claims, presents us with a moral crisis. A moral crisis is indeed facing our nation, but it is a crisis of the current political leadership, who appear willing to sacrifice the nation’s interests to the apologists for illegal immigration. These radical special interest groups disdain the nation’s immigration law and argue that it is they — and not the law — who should determine who can enter our nation, under what conditions and from where.” — Project 21’s Joe R. Hicks, a former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission

What Others Are Saying About Possible Abuse of Our Refugee System

  • During a debate on “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, political commentator Charles Krauthammer said: “We cannot… open our borders up because of miserable conditions in certain countries… If you want to deal with the humanitarian issue, and I’m prepared to spend a lot of money on this, then perhaps we ought to think of doing it in-country. You return them. You spend a lot of money. You set up the same centers that you saw in Virginia or elsewhere — perhaps in-country — with American personnel. American money. If you want to help them against the gangs, or — if you’re really serious about this — send National Guardsmen who will protect the villagers. But the idea that you’re importing the problem into the United States is, to me, unacceptable because it means we don’t have a border.”26
  • In providing public comment about a city council resolution favoring the award of refugee status on illegal aliens, former refugee Ly Kou told Riverside, California city council members: “I was a refugee from Asia. We lived in a refugee camp for two years waiting to come here. We had our lungs x-rayed. We had health screening. We went to classes so that, when we got here, we weren’t gonna be going to school and not knowing the alphabet. OK? That’s being a refugee. Someone who’s running away from a war-torn country. What these people are talking about – they’re paying someone to take them — a ‘coyote,’ or whatever they’re called — $7,000 or $8,000 for a 10-day trip across Mexico to America. That, to me, is not refugee. You want to talk refugee? Talk to someone who walked out of the killing fields [of Cambodia]. Someone who was in a prison camp. That’s a refugee.”27

  • While calling the mass immigration from her country to the United States a “humanitarian crisis,” Guatemalan first lady Rosa Leal de Perez admitted that most of the children are traveling from her country to the United States to join family members and not to escape violence. “I can’t say violence isn’t a problem in our countries,” she said. “In the municipalities where the kids are coming from, there aren’t gangs.”28

  • Members of the Obama Administration and their powerful supporters are trying to use religion to make their case, saying Jesus was a refugee. One of the Obama Administration’s top people on refugees, Eskinder Negash, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Jesus was a refugee, and that’s a very good reminder to all of us.”29 Similarly, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said: “I reference the Conference of [Catholic] Bishops statement in which they say baby Jesus was a refugee from violence. Let us not turn away these children and send them back into a burning building.”30 According to the Bible, Jesus and his family returned to his home of Nazareth from refuge abroad after Joseph learned that it was safe for him to do so.

During 2014, Project 21 members have participated in over 150 interviews on immigration, including a commentary in the Orlando Sentinel written by Project 21 member Joe Hicks, a former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Over the past several weeks, the Project 21 black leadership network has issued a series of press releases highlighting how a unilateral move by the Obama Administration to protect illegal aliens could have a negative disparate impact on black Americans and African immigrants on issues such as jobs,
31 education,32 health33 and legal immigration.34

In 2014, Project 21 members have been interviewed or cited by the media on current events over 1,300 times, including by the Fox News Special Report with Bret Baier, the O’Reilly Factor, Fox and Friends, CNN’s Situation Room, Salem Radio Network, Sean Hannity, Jim Bohannon, Bill Martinez, Radio America, American Urban Radio Network, Bill Cunningham, Roger Hedgecock, Mike Siegal, Dana Loesch, Thomm Hartmann, Progressive Radio Network, The Blaze, EurWeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, SiriusXM satellite radio, TVOne, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Orlando Sentinel and 50,000-watt talk radio stations including WBZ-Boston, WJR-Detroit, KDKA-Pittsburgh and WLW-Cincinnati. Project 21 has participated in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race preferences and voting rights and defended voter ID laws at the United Nations. Its volunteer members come from all walks of life and are not salaried political professionals.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (https://nationalcenter.org).

Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.



1 Frances Robles and Michael D. Shear, “U.S. Considering Refugee Status for Hondurans,” New York Times, July 24, 2014, available at http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/world/americas/administration-weighs-plan-to-move-processing-of-youths-seeking-entry-to-honduras-.html?_r=3&referrer= as of September 2, 2014.

2 Barack Obama, “Presidential Memorandum — Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2014,” The White House, Washington, D.C., October 2, 2013, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/02/presidential-memorandum-refugee-admissions-fiscal-year-2014 as of September 2, 2014.

3 “Notice of Public Comments on FY 2015 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” Federal Register, April 10, 2014, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/04/10/2014-08113/notice-of-public-comments-on-fy-2015-us-refugee-admissions-program as of September 2, 2014.

4 “Refugees: A Fact Sheet,” Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council, Washington, D.C., October 21, 2010, available at http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/refugees-fact-sheet as of September 2, 2014.

5 “Refugees,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C., available at http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/refugees as of September 2, 2014.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 “The Reception and Placement Program,” U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., available at http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/receptionplacement/index.htm as of September 2, 2014.

9 “Refugee Admissions,” U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., available at http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/ as of September 2, 2014.

10 Jeffrey S. Passel, D’Vera Cohn and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera, “Population of Unauthorized Immigrants Stalls, May Have Reversed,” Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., September 23, 2014, available at http://www.pewhispanic.org/2013/09/23/population-decline-of-unauthorized-immigrants-stalls-may-have-reversed/ as of September 2, 2014.

11 “U.S. Refugee Admissions Program FAQs: Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration,” U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., May 31, 2013, available at http://www.state.gov/j/prm/releases/factsheets/2013/210135.htm as of September 2, 2014.

12 “As Many As 90,000 Immigrant Children Could Be Caught Trying to Cross U.S. Border in 2014, Official Says,” Associated Press, June 5, 2014, available at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/06/05/as-many-as-0000-immigrant-children-could-try-to-cross-us-border-by-themselves/ as of September 2, 2014.

13 Rebecca Bratek, “57,000 Migrant Children Picked Up at U.S. Border Since Oct. 1,” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2014, available at http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80758209/ as of September 2, 2014.

14 Laura Meckler, Kristina Peterson and Carol E. Lee, “Obama Says U.S. Could Start Limited Refugee Program in Central America,” Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2014, available at http://online.wsj.com/articles/obama-to-meet-central-american-leaders-on-migrating-children-1406289294 as of September 2, 2014.

15 Alberto Arce and Michael Weissenstein, “UN Pushes for Migrants to be Called Refugees,” Associated Press, July 8, 2014, available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/un-pushes-migrants-be-called-refugees as of September 2, 2014.

16 Ibid.

17 “UNHCR Welcomes New Refugee Law in Mexico,” U.N. High Commission on Refugees, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, January 28, 2011, available at http://www.unhcr.org/4d42bdf19.html as of September 2, 2014.

18 “Mexico’s Landmark Law Protects Refugees and Asylum Seekers,” U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Arlington, Virginia, available at http://www.refugees.org/about-us/in-the-news/press-releases/mexicos-new-law-protects.html as of September 2, 2014.

19 Fred Lucas, “White House to Illegals: No ObamaCare with Legal Status,” CNS News, July 31, 2013, available at http://m.cnsnews.com/news/article/white-house-illegals-no-obamacare-legal-status as of September 2, 2014.

20 “2014 UNHCR Country Operations Profile — Africa,” U.N. High Commission on Refugees, United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, January 28, 2011, available at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a02d7fd6.html as of September 2, 2014.

21 “Too Many African Nations Fail Refugees,” U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Arlington, Virginia, available at http://www.refugees.org/refugee-voices/warehoused-refugees/too-many-african-nations-fail.html as of September 2, 2014.

22 “Misperceptions of U.S. Policy Key Driver in Central American Migrant Surge,” El Paso Intelligence Center, El Paso, Texas, July 7, 2014, available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/233856565/Leaked-EPIC-Document as of September 2, 2014.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 “Krauthammer: US Cannot Treat Illegal Immigrants as Refugees,” Fox News, July 14, 2014, available at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/14/krauthammer-giving-illegal-immigrants-refugee-status-would-import-problem/ as of September 2, 2014.

27 “Watch: Refugee From Killing Fields EXPLODES on Those Who Would Call Illegal Aliens ‘Refugees,'” Western Journalism Center, Anthem, Arizona, August 29, 2014, available at http://www.westernjournalism.com/real-refugee-fireball-explains-illegal-aliens-refugees/ as of September 2, 2014.

28 Whitney Eulich, “Unaccompanied Children Not Fleeing Violence, Says Guatemala’s First Lady,” Christian Science Monitor, July 10, 2014, available at http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2014/0710/Unaccompanied-children-not-fleeing-violence-says-Guatemala-s-first-lady-video as of September 2, 2014.

29 Jessica Chasmar, “HHS Official on Illegal Immigrants: ‘Jesus Was a Refugee,'” Washington Times, July 9, 2014, available at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/9/hhs-official-illegal-immigrants-jesus-was-refugee/ as of September 2, 2014.

30 Jerome Hudson, “Pelosi Says Treat Illegal Immigrant Border Kids Like Baby Jesus,” Daily Surge, July 22, 2014, available at http://dailysurge.com/2014/07/pelosi/ as of September 2, 2014.

31 “Obama Amnesty Would Hurt Black Americans,” Project 21, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., August 11, 2014, available at https://nationalcenter.org/P21PR-Amnesty_Black_Employment_081114.html as of September 2, 2014.

32 “Influx of Illegal Immigrant Children Likely to Strain Public Schools,” Project 21, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., August 18, 2014, available at https://nationalcenter.org/P21PR-Immigration_Public_Schools_081814.html as of September 2, 2014.

33 “Public Schools Face Health Threat from Illegal Aliens,” Project 21, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., September 2, 2014, available at https://nationalcenter.org/P21PR-Immigrants_Health_Schools_090214.html as of September 2, 2014.

34 “Obama’s Immigration Policies Would Prejudice U.S. Immigration Policy Against Immigrants from Africa,” Project 21, The National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., August 25, 2014, available at https://nationalcenter.org/P21PR-African_Immigrants_082514.html as of September 2, 2014.

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