By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
March 22, 2016
Following a series of explosions at an airport and metro station in Brussels on Tuesday morning, some U.S. Republican lawmakers already want to revive legislation that would halt the flow of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and other countries where ISIS has gained ground.
“Right now, we should suspend all refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and any countries involved in a war where ISIS is a factor,” Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told the Washington Examiner. “I just feel that we do not have a proper vetting system. We cannot be sure we are keeping ISIS terrorists from being included in the refugees that are coming in.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) supported King’s stance. “There is no possible way you can vet all of these refugees who I have a high confidence level that some are getting through the cracks,” he said. “And it only takes one or two bad ones and you have a major problem. So the process needs to be revamped.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, echoed those views. “We need to immediately halt the President’s ill-advised plan to bring in tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees,” he stated during a press conference on Tuesday. “Our vetting programs are woefully insufficient.”
Despite mounting evidence that recent attacks have not been carried out by refugees — who are by and large the same people victimized by ISIS — the effort to link Syrian refugees to terror attacks has continued unabated. Some pointed to a Syrian passport that a terrorist left behind during the terror attacks in Paris last year, though officials determined it was counterfeit. A prominent EU official confirmed that the identified attackers were EU nationals who held passports from European countries.
President Obama announced last September that the United States would relocate 10,000 refugees from Syria over the next year, up more than five-fold than the current intake of about 2,000 refugees. Despite a veto promise from the president, the U.S. House of Representatives still went ahead and passed a bill last year to suspend the refugee resettlement process for Syrians amid concerns that the program could provide a way for terrorists to enter the country.
At least 28 Republican governors and one Democratic governor seized on the fear perpetuated from the Paris terror attacks to block refugees from being resettled in their states, a policy that can only be delegated through the federal government. Outside of the United States, refugees were quickly blamed when police lodged more than 1000 reported incidents against women in Cologne, Germany during the New Year. Only three of the 58 people arrested for those attacks were refugees from Syria or Iraq.
Since the terror attacks on September 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees. Only three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities, “and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” a Migration Policy Institute expert explained.
Even if terrorists did try to infiltrate the U.S. as refugees, they would have to go through a stringent screening process before even entering the country. It takes an average of 18 months to 24 months from the time that Syrian refugees register with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the time they can enter the country.
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