Thursday, November 26, 2015

All of the Syrian refugees are well-vetted, aren't they?

Those who think we should welcome with open hearts and open arms the refugees fleeing the war in Syria, argue that the refugees are well vetted. The Tennessean has spend numerous column-inches arguing that those seeking to enter the country as refugees have all been well-vetted.  So how are refugees "vetted?"

First they must be declared a refugee and there is an international protocol that established that criteria. CNN Politics explains it like this:

Potential refugees first apply for refugee status through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the international body in charge of protecting and assisting refugees.
The UNHCR essentially decides who merits refugee status based on the parameters laid out in the 1951 Refugee Convention, which states that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."
If you are fleeing a bad situation and simply because you want greater economic opportunity, that is not sufficient to be considered a refugee. If you are simply fleeing war and afraid you might get killed that does not make you a refugee. If one meets the criteria and is then considered a refugee then he may be referred by the UNHRC for resettlement in a third country which has agreed to accept refugees.  Then that third country vets the refugee.

In the United States, the refugee is referred to the  Resettlement Support Center, which gathers information about the candidate to prepare for a screening process, which includes an interview, a medical evaluation and an interagency security screening process aimed at ensuring the refugee does not pose a threat to the United States.

According to The State Department, less than one percent of refugees worldwide are ever resettled in a third country. The average processing time for refugee applications is 18 to 24 months, but Syrian applications can take significantly longer because of security concerns and difficulties in verifying their information. It is not like doing a background check for employment with the CIA or the FBI. An investigation can not call up the refugee's high school teacher or talk to the next door neighbors. They cannot visit the local police station and see if the person has a criminal record. There is not even a Equifax credit report to review.

This is how the State Department website describes the process:
The UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy, or an authorized non-governmental organization (NGO) can refer a refugee to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Once a referral is made, a Resettlement Support Center (RSC) funded and managed by PRM prepares the case for presentation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The RSC helps the refugee and his /her family (if applicable) prepare their case file - taking photos, checking the facts in the files, collecting information for the security clearance process, etc. Applicants are then interviewed by an officer of DHS' United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The interviewer adjudicates the case. If approved, the applicant and his/her family undergo medical exams, which are standard for all applicants seeking to reside permanently in the United States.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) working under agreement with PRM in the U.S. then agrees to be the refugee's sponsor. Refugees approved for admission are offered a short cultural orientation program to introduce them to life in the United States. Once all security and health checks are complete, refugees are scheduled for travel to the US.
So basically, the refugee is checked against a list of know terrorist and is interviewed. How confident does that make you that the refuges is "vetted?"

There are radical Muslims who want to do us harm. That is indisputable.  That does not mean all Muslims are evil, but the more Muslims allowed to enter the country, the greater the likelihood that among  those admitted as refugees there will be some sleeper terrorist waiting for the opportunity to strike. Also, while I believe most Muslim immigrants will assimilate, there is also a greater opportunity for Muslims who may have come here as legitimate refugees to become radicalized once they are here if we have more Muslims living in our country.

What has been the track record?  Senator Jeff Session recently released a list of twelve Muslim refugees who were vetted and settled in America who became terrorist.  I urge you to follow the link and read the story of these vetted refugees who became terrorist and then see how confident that makes you in the vetting process.  

I know that there are those who would demonize all Americans of the Islamic faith and Muslim immigrants and Muslim refugees and we must be on guard against letting fear lead us to violate our values, as we did in World War II during the Japanese interment in which 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced into interment camps, 62 percent of whom were American citizens. However, to call for a temporary halt to accepting additional Syrian refugees simply seems prudent in my view. To question the vetting process and the wisdom of accepting an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees seems like a wise thing to do. It is not prejudice or xenophobia to urge caution and a review of our vetting process. 

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