The much-vaunted refugee resettlement deal between Australia and the United States is in a “fragile” state, as advocates fear President-elect Donald Trump will abandon the arrangement.
Texas Republican Brian Babin told Fairfax Media he believed Mr Trump “will do everything in his power to put an immediate stop” to the deal, which would see the US accept some refugees currently housed on Manus Island and Nauru.
Mr Babin’s comments follow criticism of the deal from other senior Republicans.
Struck in November with the Obama administration, the deal would see the US accept asylum seekers held in Australia’s offshore processing centres.
Australia, meanwhile, has agreed to resettle refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who are currently being housed in Costa Rica.
Refugee advocates offered cautious support for the deal when it was announced, but some questioned its future under a Trump presidency.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis told The New Daily on Monday he was worried by how “fragile” the deal appeared to be.
“All it takes is one person’s comment to [raise fears about the deal] because of the incompetence of the government to resettle these refugees,” he said.
“What’s most concerning is yet again this will cause more anxiety and uncertainty for those on Manus and Nauru,” he said.
Mr Karapanagiotidis reiterated his call to have asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru settled in Australia, but said he supported any deal that would see them find safety in a Western democracy, such as the US.
Mr Babin, a hard-right congressman who represents a district in south-west Texas, said he was confident Mr Trump would scrap a deal “that should have simply never happened in the first place.”
“This secret deal to import dangerous refugees into the US is exactly what the American people soundly rejected in November with the election of Donald Trump.”
Senior Republicans Chuck Grassley and Bob Goodlatte in November also offered opposition to the deal, saying the refugees were from countries of “national security concern”, such as Iran and Sudan.
Mr Trump’s campaign espoused skepticism towards immigration throughout 2016, including an initial pledge for a ban on Muslim immigration.
The New Daily contacted Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office for comment. A spokesman for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was confident the deal would remain with the new administration, Fairfax Media reported.
Acting Opposition Leader Penny Wong said it would be disappointing if the agreement did not go ahead.
“Ultimately that’s a matter for Prime Minister Turnbull to resolve with the incoming president,” she told reporters in Adelaide.
Australian immigration officials met with members of Mr Trump’s team to discuss the deal and the Coalition’s border protection policies last month.
Immigration Department figures say there are 872 people held in the Manus Island detention centre and 390 held on Nauru, The Guardian reported in November.
The United Nations Human Rights Council, which has been critical of Australia’s asylum seeker policies, welcomed the deal when it was announced.
“The arrangement reflects a much-needed, long-term solution for some refugees who have been held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for over three years and who remain in a precarious situation,” it said.
Mr Trump will be inaugurated as president on January 20.