Obama administration has to change its refugee process, says Jerry Brown

How did the White House teleconference with governors on the vetting process go? Remarkably civil, reports Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, but that doesn’t mean uneventful. Chief of staff Denis McDonough made it clear that the governors had no authority to block refugee settlement in their states, and also that the Obama administration refused to consider changing the process in light of current developments. That prompted some pushback from a surprising source — California’s Jerry Brown, who wants a lot more access to background information before enthusiastically jumping on the bandwagon:

Brown said he favored continuing to admit Syrian refugees but wanted the federal government to hand over information that would allow states to keep track of them, the GOP state official said.

McDonough responded to Brown that there was currently no process in place to give states such information and the administration saw no reason to change the status quo. The non-governmental organizations that help resettle the refugees would have such information.

Brown countered by noting that state law enforcement agencies have active investigations into suspected radicals and that information about incoming Syrian refugees could help maintain their awareness about potential radicalization. He suggested the U.S. had to adjust the way it operates in light of the Paris attacks.

McDonough reiterated his confidence in the current process. While promising to consider what Brown and other senators had said, he emphasized that the administration had no plans to increase information sharing on refugees with states as of now.

In other words, trust us. That might seem comical coming from the same administration whose president assured Americans that ISIS was “contained” hours before the attacks in Paris, or as one reader noted earlier from the same White House that pushed the “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” lie for more than three years. It was clear that the administration has less desire to work with governors than to tell them they have no choice but to comply. That hardly engenders trust, not now and not in the future.

What exactly is so unreasonable about Brown’s requests anyway? If problems arise with refugees, it won’t be the FBI that deals with the acute issues, but state and local law enforcement. Should they not have access to the information garnered in the vetting process, especially since the White House insists it will be comprehensive enough to allay all fears of potential trouble? If the resettlement NGOs have access to it, then so should the states that will have to deal with potential risks in resettlement. Merely saying that no such process exists is no answer; as Brown told McDonough, this is a good time to come up with those kinds of processes.

Interestingly, this entire exchange doesn’t appear in ABC’s report of the conference call. It does include this curious reference to my state, though:

Matt Swenson, spokesman for Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, said he was reassured that no refugee resettlement initiative is underway “at this time” in the state.

Given the White House’s inflexibility on cooperating with states on refugee resettlement, Dayton’s not the only Minnesotan “reassured” by that news. It sounds like Dayton is on the reluctant side as well.