By Ethan Barton
Screening people fleeing from foreign countries for resettlement in the U.S. is a “stringent process,” but Americans are deeply worried that ISIS will make good on its promise to sneak terrorists in among the 10,000 Syrian refugees President Obama is determined to admit into America next year.
“The problem is, the databases they’re checking against likely won’t have anything about people in Syria,” Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s not like they’re able to call up the Damascus police department. Records have either gone up in smoke or are not available to us.”
“If you don’t have the tools, it doesn’t matter how hard you try,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to identify the bad guys.”
Obama administration officials insist the U.S. has a stringent vetting process for incoming refugees that can take as much as two years. It’s a process that is “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States,” according to Department of State spokesman Mark Toner.
His claim appears to flatly contradict FBI Director James Comey, who told Congress Oct. 21 that federal officials can’t do thorough background checks on all incoming Syrian refugees.
“If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing showing up because we have no record of them,” Comey told the House Committee on Homeland Security.
One thing is beyond doubt — Syrian refugees have caused massive security issues, especially across Europe.
One of the Paris attackers that killed at least 129 people Nov. 13 used a fake Syrian passport to enter France through Greece, The Wall Street Journal reported. Eight other migrants used phony documents almost identical to the Paris attacker’s to sneak past authorities, according to the Daily Mail.
Forged Syrian passports, IDs or birth certificates can be purchased in the Middle East for as little as $250, according to the Daily Mail. Fake documents could be a problem for United States officials, too.
“Syrian government offices have been looted,” Krikorian said. Consequently, blank passports and other documents were likely stolen that could be used to create legitimate identification. Krikorian said federal officials aren’t capable of distinguishing such forgeries from the genuine articles.
Also, the sheer volume of 10,000 Syrian refugees entering the country in the next year is likely to degrade the effectiveness of the vetting process.
Less than 2,200 Syrian refugees have entered the country since March, 2011, when civil war broke out, which means nearly five times more Syrian refugees will enter the United States next year than the previous four years combined.
“I don’t see how they can admit 10,000 Syrian refugees without cutting corners,” Krikorian said. “Honestly, I don’t think they’re going to meet their target.”
Not only will that require federal officials to work faster in the vetting process – potentially increasing the chance of mistakes – but it will also be more challenging to monitor the refugees once they are released into the United States.
Already, a refugee settled in Louisiana went missing Tuesday and was ultimately found in Washington, D.C. hours later, the DCNF reported.
Additionally, there are multiple examples of foreign-born terrorists caught after entering the United States seeking asylum. “Two Iraqi refugees who settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, turned out to be al Qaeda- linked terrorists with the blood of American soldiers on their hands,” reported ABC News in 2013.
Of the 784,000 refugees admitted to the United States since the 9/11 attacks, however, only three have been arrested for planning terrorist activities, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
But federal officials need to be especially careful with Syrians, as they are being driven out primarily by ISIS – currently the best-known radical Islamic group dedicated to destroying the U.S. and Western society, Center for Immigration Studies Research Director Steven Camarota told The Atlantic.
Most state governors are worried, but not all of them.
“The federal refugee review system has the highest level of security checks of any traveler to American shores, including biometric and biographic checks and in-person overseas interviews by federal officials trained to ensure that an applicant is a bona fide refugee and not a security risk,” Kelly Bachman, a spokeswoman for Delaware’s Democratic Gov. Jack Markell – who supports accepting Syrian refugees — told The DCNF.
Thirty-one other governors have said they will refuse Syrian refuges.
The refugee vetting process can take up to two years and involves multiple federal agencies, including the State Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Refugees must first apply to the United Nations Commission for Refugees, which then refers the applicant to a new country, such as the United States, reported CNN. Refugees are then subjected to background checks, which include using biometric information to verify an applicant’s identity, followed by an interview with a DHS officer.
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