NJ stops cooperating with program, but refugees will still settle in state
Federal officials held a conference call Friday morning with representatives of nonprofit groups who help refugees resettle in New Jersey, a process that will no longer have the participation on Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.
Christie said last November that New Jersey would stop taking part in the federal Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement program, and the state this month formalized that decision.
The decision won’t change the program on the ground: Refugees have been settled in New Jersey and will continue to be. But rather than have the state contract with nongovernmental organizations to run the services, the federal government will contract directly with such agencies.
“The governor has consistently stated his opposition to the resettlement program in the absence of proper security vetting, safeguards and assurances being offered by the federal government,” said Christie spokesman Brian Murray.
Christie last November, at the time a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said following the ISIS attacks in Paris that New Jersey would withdraw from the program due to concerns that the background checks on refugees aren’t able to ensure terrorists won’t enter the country.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, criticized the move.
“The governor's xenophobic knee-jerk reaction is a new low,” Pascrell said. “Having the state abdicate its responsibility to help resettle refugees from not just Syria, but many other places including Cuba, Ukraine and Africa, is wrong, shortsighted and an embarrassment to New Jersey.”
The program is fully funded by the federal government, without state dollars.
The state Department of Human Services notified the Obama administration that the Governor’s Office was withdrawing the state from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program in an April 7 letter.
Technically, the state gave Washington 120 days’ notice that it is withdrawing, making the change effective in early August.
New Jersey joins a dozen other states where resettlement programs are managed by nonprofit organizations because the state does not participate: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont.
In the six months covering October through March, 127 refugees settled in New Jersey. Twenty-four were from Syria, second only to 36 from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Eighty-one Syrian refugees settled in New Jersey between October 2013 and September 2015.