Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, has filed a FOIA lawsuit with the State Department on June 18 for records on where the Obama administration resettled refugees in 2015 and 2016, leading up to the presidential election.
“Judicial Watch is suing to find out which towns across America were, without input and over the objections of residents, targeted for refugee settlements by the Obama administration,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, in a press release. “And we are investigating to make sure now that the current State Department is being more transparent in its placement of refugees.”
The lawsuit follows a similar FOIA request filed by Judicial Watch on Feb. 23, 2017, which the State Department allegedly did not respond to. The previous request asked for records on locations where refugees were resettled in 2015 and 2016, records on the criteria used to determine the locations, and records showing names of organizations that promoted the locations.
The Obama administration significantly increased the number of refugees resettled in the United States between 2015 and 2016. According to a release from the International Organization for Migration, 1,682 Syrian refugees were admitted into the United States in 2015, and this was increased to 12,587 Syrian refugees in 2016. This exceeded the 10,000 planned by former President Barack Obama.
The report notes that altogether the United States resettled 85,000 refugees in 2016, which in addition to the Syrian refugees included 16,370 from Congo, 12,347 from Burma, 9,880 from Iraq, and 9,020 from Somalia. This was an increase from the close to 70,000 admitted in 2015.
President Donald Trump suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through his Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, 2017. According to Judicial Watch, 29,022 were admitted into the United States in 2017, which was the lowest number since 2002.