After the tragic events in Paris, American’s have become more skeptical about accepting Syrian Refugees because they fear that terrorists reside amongst the refugees. This has caused presidential candidates, mayors, and governors to announce their opposition to accepting the refugees.
The hysteria culminated in a House bill that would stop the United States from accepting refugees and would require that the Homeland Security secretary, FBI director, and National Intelligence director approve each refugee’s admittance. In essence, they would have to claim each refugee is not a security threat.
Truly, though, the bill’s solution is to not make the vetting process more secure, but to delay the process altogether. However, the majority of politicians who have succumbed to the refugee panic do not actually know what the screening process entails for all refugees, let alone those of Syrian background.
The process for all refugees coming into the country entails many rigorous steps. They must apply to the United Nation’s High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), which will check refugees’ IDs and conduct interviews, from which only 1% will proceed. During this stage, Syrian refugees will undergo an iris scan.
Later on, the National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and State Department, screen candidates for security risks, such as outstanding warrants or criminal violations. Syrian refugees also have an enhanced review by the DHS for applicants’ eligibility and credibility.
The DHS and USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate conduct another interview and take fingerprints. Any new information that raises questions causes more security checks, putting a case on hold and possibly rejected.
Then, there the fingerprints are screened against FBI and DHS databases containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters, along with the US Department of Defense database that includes fingerprint records taken from Iraq and other locations.
All of this happens before an applicant even gets near an airplane.
Refugees are vetted over and over again throughout an18-24 month period. Pending applications are continuously checked against terrorist databases to ensure that new and relevant terrorism information has not surfaced. A refugee can be denied if any security issues arise.
If a refugee can pass all of these stages, then applicants undergo screening from US Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger and TSA Secure Flight Program. A successful refugee arrives in the US and applies for a green card, triggering a new wave of security procedures.
It’s ridiculous to assume—like many politicians do—that terrorists would voluntarily submit themselves to this type of enhanced security check with government review when the visa waiver process is more straightforward. It only has one simple step.
Anyone with a passport can buy a plane ticket and arrive on U.S. soil. All they then have to do is pass through U.S. customs or get a visa waiver by going to an interview at a U.S. consulate.
The terrifying thing about this is that terrorists know about this easier process. And they’re using it. Just look at the San Bernardino shootings: the woman, originally from Pakistan, was able to get an American visa and then go on a killing spree with her husband, murdering fourteen and wounding twenty-one.
So maybe what the politicians should be focusing on is the visa waiver process, not the refugee screening process.
Few people realize that denying refugees actually plays into the hands of ISIS. If the House bill becomes law, we would be helping ISIS spread their message about the “evils” of the U.S. It is well known ISIS preaches that our nation hates Muslims. By keeping refugees from safety, we make it easier for ISIS to convince other Muslims to join their rank, and cause refugees increased suffering.
While the process for admitting refuges is rigorous, the chance a terrorist enters the U.S. as a refugee must still be recognized, but not exaggerated simply to cause panic. Of the 785,000 refugees admitted to the US since 9/11 only three have been arrested for planning terrorist activities. None of these ever resulted in an attack in the U.S.
America has a tradition of welcoming refugees with open arms, one that has made our nation great. Turning away from the Syrian refugees because of fear destroys this principle and aids the enemy.
We need to act responsibly. We need to realize that our screening process is secure enough to let in Syrian refugees. And we need to formulate meaningful resolutions to keep America safe, instead of just blindly following the fear mongering of our politicians.