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The Reality Of Refugee Admissions: Yes, The Government Vets Them

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The Reality Of Refugee Admissions: Yes, The Government Vets Them


The political panic over the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, has unleashed a wave of fear-mongering, bolstered by a notion being propagated by the right wing, that Americans couldn’t possibly know who is being let into our country. Thirty-one U.S. governors have said they won’t accept any Syrian refugees into their state, many of them claiming there’s a large inherent risk in doing so.

Of course, there’s a serious fallacy at work here: By the time any Syrian refugee actually arrives in the United States, we do know who that person is. Very well.

There is a clear difference between refugees in the United States and refugees in Europe, namely that refugees can’t simply walk or use small boats in order to get to the U.S. By contrast, Europe has a flood of humanity getting displaced into their borders, who may enter one of the countries without getting screened — thus creating the danger that even one ISIS terrorist can disguise himself among the people fleeing his cohorts, as French officials believe did occur with at least one attacker.

But the U.S. actually has the advantages of distance and time to pick and choose before anyone from such a faraway land can set foot over here.

That process involves a multitude of complex steps, starting with an initial screening by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which possibly leads to a referral to the United States and a gauntlet of security checks, personal interviews, medical screening, and matching with a sponsor agency in the U.S. itself. It is far from the mysterious influx of unknown people that the many governors and Republican presidential candidates are making it sound like.

As noted by defense policy researcher Josh Hampson in The Hill: “In fact, there have been no recorded terrorist attacks committed by refugees. The U.S. has admitted 1.5 million refugees from the Middle East since September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks that have occurred since 9/11 have been committed either by American natives or non-refugee immigrants.”

A State Department spokesperson told The National Memo in a emailed statement:

The United States remains deeply committed to safeguarding the American public from terrorists, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. We do not believe these goals are mutually exclusive, or that either has to be pursued at the expense of the other. To that end the refugee security screening and vetting process has been significantly enhanced over the past few years. Today, all refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States, including the involvement of the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. All refugees, including Syrians, are admitted only after successful completion of this stringent security screening regime.

On a conference call Tuesday, an unnamed senior administration official confirmed to the press that the average time for processing a person through that entire gamut of interviews and background checks takes an average of 18 to 24 months. “As you know, we are trying to look at the process and see if we can make it more efficient without cutting corners on security.”

And yet at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch still had to explain to House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — who had seized upon recent comments by FBI Director James Comey about the difficulties of the vetting process — that the Justice Department and others in the government do have a “significant and robust screening process in place,” which Europe has not been able to set up.

On Tuesday, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump posted a message to Instagram, with The Donald shouting to the camera with his typical bombast: “Refugees are pouring into our great country from Syria! We don’t even know who they are! They could be ISIS, they could be anybody! What’s our president doing — is he insane?”

What is our President doing?

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

And in the Louisiana gubernatorial race, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is running this ad — complete with clips of panic in the streets of Paris — ahead of the election this weekend: “One of the Paris ISIS terrorists entered France posing as a Syrian refugee. Now, Obama’s sending Syrian refugees to Louisiana.”

Newly-crowned House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is trying to be a bit more low-key, although catering to the same doubts, as he told reporters Tuesday: “This is a moment where it is better to be safe than sorry. So we think the prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”

One can perhaps “forgive” Trump for being utterly clueless, and simply expect that Vitter, in the homestretch phase of his campaign, would act like a demagogue. But shouldn’t the Speaker of the House act like he already knows the government has vigorous vetting procedures in place? And for that matter, what does a “pause” even mean when it comes to admitting in refugees who have taken up to two years to be screened?

Refugees, most of them Syrians, struggle to leave a half-sunken catamaran carrying around 150 refugees as it arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis



  1. Daniel Jones November 18, 2015

    A “pause” means he wants the innocent to die outside our borders to both encourage war and to not worry about more mouths to feed. “Ayn” Rand Paul hasn’t changed at all.

  2. Facebook User November 18, 2015

    Talking Points not reality you cannot Vet these people want proof!

    An immigrant from Muslim-dominated Bangladesh, who applied for and received U.S.
    citizenship,‎ tried to incite people to travel to Somalia and conduct violent
    jihad against the United States. He was arrested
    in Texas in 2014.

    In July 2015, a Cuban immigrant inspired by Islamic extremists plotted to explode
    a backpack bomb filled with nails
    on a beach in Key West.

    An immigrant from Ghana, who applied for and received U.S. citizenship, pledged
    allegiance to ISIS and plotted a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. He attacked an
    FBI agent with a large kitchen knife when the agent was searching his home in
    June in Staten Island, New York. The search was connected to an investigation
    stemming from the weekend arrest of Munther Omar Saleh, a 20-year-old U.S.
    citizen charged with conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, CNN

    An immigrant from Sudan living in northern Virginia, who applied for and received
    U.S. citizenship, tried to join ISIS and wage jihad on its behalf after having
    been recruited online. He pleaded
    guilty in federal court in June
    2015 to providing material support to ISIS and his friend, according to court
    records, is now a member of the Islamic State fighting force in Syria.

    A Muslim refugee couple from Bosnia, along with their five relatives living in
    Missouri, Illinois and New York, were
    charged in February 2015 with
    sending money and supplies, and smuggled arms, to ISIS and other terrorist
    organizations in Syria and Iraq.

    A Muslim immigrant from Yemen, who applied for and received U.S. citizenship,
    along with six other men living in Minnesota as members of refugee families,
    were charged
    in April 2015 with conspiracy to
    travel to Syria and to provide material support to ISIS.

    A Somali refugee with lawful permanent resident status, along with four other
    Somali nationals, were charged
    July 23, 2014, with leading an al-Shabaab terrorist fundraising conspiracy
    in the United States, with monthly payments directed to the Somali terrorist

    A Kazakhstani immigrant with lawful permanent resident status conspired to
    purchase a machine gun to shoot FBI and other law enforcement agents if they
    prevented him from traveling to Syria to join ISIS. He and two others from
    Uzbekistan, both living in Brooklyn, were charged
    in February 2015 with providing
    material support a foreign terrorist organization.

    Two female immigrants, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen, one of whom applied
    for and received U.S. citizenship, allegedly swore allegiance to ISIS and
    pledged to explode a propane tank bomb on U.S. soil. They were arrested
    in April 2015 during an FBI
    undercover raid on their house in Queens, New York.

    A Uzbek man in Brooklyn allegedly encouraged other Uzbek nationals to wage jihad
    on behalf of ISIS, and raised $1,600 for the terror organization. The arrests
    were announced in February and
    April 2015.

    The Boston Bombers were invited in as asylum seekers. The younger brother applied
    for citizenship and was naturalized on Sept. 11, 2012. The older brother had a
    pending application for citizenship.

    A Moroccan Muslim who came to the U.S. on a student visa was arrested and charged
    in April 2014 with plotting to blow
    up a university and a federal court house.

    Six Members of Minnesota’s Somali-American refugee community have recently been charged
    with trying to join ISIS. The Washington Times reported that “the effort [to
    resettle large groups of Somali refugees in Minnesota] is having the unintended
    consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is
    both stressing the state’s safety net and creating a rich pool of potential
    recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups.”

    An Uzbek refugee living in Boise, Idaho, was arrested
    in 2013 and charged with providing
    support to a terrorist organization, in the form of teaching terror recruits how
    to build bombs to blow up U.S. military installations. He was convicted in
    August 2015.

    A teenage American citizen living in York, South Carolina, whose family emigrated
    from Syria, was sentenced
    in April 2015 for plotting to
    support ISIS and rob a gun store to kill members of the American military.

    A Muslim immigrant from Syria living in Ohio, who later applied for and received
    U.S. citizenship, was accused
    by federal prosecutors of planning
    to “go to a military base in Texas and kill three or four American soldiers
    execution style.”

    A college student who came to America as a refugee from Somalia, who later applied
    for and received U.S. citizenship, attempted
    to blow up a Christmas tree
    lighting ceremony in Oregon. He was sentenced in October 2014 to 30 years in

    An immigrant from Afghanistan, who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship,
    and a legal permanent resident from the Philippines, were convicted
    Sept. 25, 2014 for trying to “join
    Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to kill Americans.”

    An Iraqi immigrant, who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship, was arrested
    in May 2015 for lying to federal
    agents about pledging allegiance to ISIS and his travels to Syria.

    Two Pakistani-American brothers living in New York, who later applied for and
    received U.S citizenship, were sentenced
    in June 2015 to decades-long prison
    sentences for plotting to detonate a bomb in New York City.

    An immigrant from Muslim-dominated Yemen, who later applied for and received U.S.
    citizenship, was arrested
    in September 2014 in Rochester, New
    York, for allegedly trying to join ISIS. He was also charged with attempting to
    illegally buy firearms to try to shoot American military personnel.

    An immigrant brought here by his family from Kuwait at age 6, and who was later
    approved for U.S. citizenship, carried out the jihadist attack that recently
    killed four U.S. Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga on July 16, 2015, using an
    AK-47 semi-automatic weapon against unarmed military men.

    1. latebloomingrandma November 18, 2015


      1. TheSkalawag929 November 18, 2015

        I wonder if Facebook User realizes that johninPCFL just used Facebook User’s own evidence against him to prove his point.
        I didn’t see one refugee in his extensive list.

    2. johninPCFL November 18, 2015

      Maybe your reading skills need improvement: “The terrorist attacks that have occurred since 9/11 have been committed either by American natives or non-refugee immigrants.”

      Just so there’s no confusion: “American natives or non-refugee immigrants”

      The Syrians are REFUGEES, and refugees have committed ZERO attacks in the last decade. Native-born American citizens, on the other hand, have committed DOZENS.

  3. itsfun November 18, 2015

    The director of the FBI says there is no way we can investigate these people to see who they are. Apparently the author of this article thinks he knows more than the director of the FBI.

    1. johninPCFL November 18, 2015

      Maybe you missed this: “And yet at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch still had to explain to House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) — who had seized upon recentcomments by FBI Director James Comey about the difficulties of the vetting process — that the Justice Department and others in the government do have a “significant and robust screening process in place,” which Europe has not been able to set up.”

      And again, just so you get the drift: “that the Justice Department and others in the government do have a “significant and robust screening process in place,” which Europe has not been able to set up.”

      1. Irishgrammy November 18, 2015

        What I have seen what is repeatedly done by the Republicans to a person is they deny what the administration and/or agencies explain ad nauseam what these agencies are capable of doing in boring infinitesimal detail, how long it takes to vet refugees and every tedious detail they investigate, and yet the Republicans refuse, utterly refuse to accept the truth and/or information being given and still go with their “political talking points” to dismiss and attack our own government of refusing to believe any truth especially from our president and his administration constantly accusing of ineptitude or some other phony lies …… They would rather play their fear mongering, scapegoating game, which they have honed to disgusting perfection…….it is an unrelenting constant in their politics playing their cynical game with an ignorant populace that barely can pay attention as they struggle to just live……..Since when did this country become a bunch of scared little children being influenced by ignorant fear mongering based hyperbolic rhetoric. It is clear we cannot depend on one political party of telling the truth and up to each of us to learn what the truth is……………What is being done by Republicans is beyond shameful!

  4. latebloomingrandma November 18, 2015

    Why should we “forgive” Trump for being utterly clueless? We, meaning the fawning media and thinking people should be shouting him out for his cluelessness, idiocy, and garbage mouth. He wants to be POTUS? Why is everyone afraid to call him what he is?

  5. jim muster November 18, 2015

    The shame these politicians and right wing media talking heads are bringing on to this country with their fear mongering is absoultly disguesting. I stand by the President and by the people of this nation that are not afraid to stand up to the principles of this United States of Americia. We are better then these petty politicians.

  6. Otto Greif November 18, 2015

    Like they vetted the Tsarnev brothers.

    1. stormatsea November 18, 2015

      “The terrorist attacks that have occurred since 9/11 have been committed either by American natives or non-refugee immigrants.”

  7. bromeando November 18, 2015

    Republicans love to push fear. Remember Ebola? We’re heading into campaign season. You can always tell with these one-trick guys. And you know what’s sad, the American
    people fall for it every time.

  8. Dominick Vila November 18, 2015

    I wonder how many Americans are aware of the damage that people like Cruz, Trump, and the far right at large, are doing to our image as leaders of the free world, the home of the brace, and a country whose traditions include welcoming huddled masses.
    Instead what I hear are expressions of intense fear, prejudice, and cowardice. At a time when countries the size of California , are accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees trying to escape terror, many of who are Coptic Christians and overwhelmingly people seeking a better life for themselves and their families. to
    I don’t think our charlatans are cowards. Rather, they are political opportunists who could not pass the chance to demonize immigrants to capitalize on on two pillars that are part of the overall GOP political strategy: anti-Muslims prejudice, and anti-immigrant sentiments that are so ingrained in the psyche of a segment of our population.

  9. Bren Frowick November 18, 2015

    The tunnel vision focus on refugees is really so amazingly absurd it is hard to take the hysterical hand-flapping seriously. Case in point: how did the 9/11 hijackers get into the country? Were they refugees? No-ooo… “One of the 19 hijackers came to the U.S. on a student visa. The rest arrived here on tourist or business visas.”

    Now somebody tell me: should we go crazy and ban all foreign students? All tourists? All business trips? And THOSE avenues of entry receive MUCH less vetting than do refugees. The cowardly governors and GOP politicians attacking refugees seem to have forgotten that this is supposed to be “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”, not “The Land of the Slave and the Home of the Coward”

    1. Kurt CPI November 18, 2015

      “The rest arrived here on tourist or business visas.” Which shows just how worthless our “vetting” process is. The US created this monster and continues to fund and arm militant factions in the middle east to carry out tasks in pursuit of our “national interest”. That only adds fuel to the fire and breeds more resentment against the west. But regardless of who created the monster, it is no less a monster, and there’s no possible way these refugees can be properly vetted, regardless of who says so. Does that mean they’re terrorists? Of course not, but they’re angry, displaced, and well-indoctrinated in the philosophy that the west is the seed of evil and is the reason God has reigned his wrath upon them (yes, even the Christian refugees).
      And the argument that because 911 was mostly not carried out by refugees somehow makes refugees innocuous is like saying that since only a fractional percentage of deaths in WWII were from atomic bombs, that atomic bombs are not something to be wary of. Just sayin’

      1. Bren Frowick November 18, 2015

        Why don’t you just confess that you are frightened of all those scary foreigners and want to hide under the covers? The cowardice inherent in attempts to shut out the world is the most depressing aspect of this entire hysterical uproar.

  10. Louis Allen November 18, 2015

    Wow. Are these leftist/liberals supid.


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