A White House aide close to senior policy adviser Stephen Miller who has advocated strict limits on immigration into the U.S. has been selected for a top State Department post overseeing refugee admissions, according to current and former officials.
Andrew Veprek’s appointment as a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) is alarming pro-immigration activists who fear that President Donald Trump is trying to effectively end the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
Current and former officials also describe Veprek’s appointment as a blow to an already-embattled refugee bureau. Trump has made clear his disdain for liberal immigration policies, and the bureau has been adrift under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — even as a record 65 million people are displaced around the world because of war, famine and other calamities.
The bureau’s website says it “provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States.” It adds that the bureau “also promotes the United States’ population and migration policies.”
Veprek is a Foreign Service officer detailed to the White House, which listed him as an “immigration adviser” in a 2017 staff document. He has worked closely there with Miller and the Domestic Policy Council, according to a current State official and a former one in touch with people still serving in the department. A former U.S. official also confirmed the appointment.
In interagency debates, some administration officials have viewed Veprek as representing Miller’s hard-line views about limiting entry into the U.S. for refugees and other immigrants.
Veprek played an influential role in Trump administration’s December withdrawal from international talks on a nonbinding global pact on migration issues. He also argued in favor of dramatically lowering the nation’s annual cap on refugee admissions, the current and former officials said.
“He was Stephen Miller’s vehicle,” the former State official said. The current official predicted that some PRM officials could resign in protest over Veprek’s appointment.
“My experience is that he strongly believes that fewer refugees should admitted into the United States and that international migration is something to be stopped, not managed,” the former U.S. official said, adding that Veprek’s views about refugees and migrants were impassioned to the point of seeming “vindictive.”
Veprek’s appointment as a deputy assistant secretary is unusual given his relatively low Foreign Service rank, the former and current State officials said, and raises questions about his qualifications. Such a position typically does not require Senate confirmation.
“On the positive side, one would hope that an appointee with limited experience would come into the job with a willingness to learn from professionals who have decades upon decades of experience,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and a former assistant secretary of state for the PRM bureau.
He added, however, that he was “deeply concerned” given Veprek’s relationship with Miller and the Domestic Policy Council.