The Syrian refugee process is no open door. It's two complicated years | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Syrian refugee process is no open door. It's two complicated years

Posted By on Sun, Nov 22, 2015 at 7:56 AM

click to enlarge MUST READING: Women who fled ISIS tell their stories. It should help understand the imperative so many have felt to seek refuge in other countries. And that is no easy process.
  • MUST READING: Women who fled ISIS tell their stories. It should help understand the imperative so many have felt to seek refuge in other countries. And that is no easy process.
Arkansas politicians have been nearly uniformly opposed to admission of Syrian refugees to the United States, with those Arkansans in Congress favoring legislation to make the process even harder.

It is already arduous. In four years, only 2,000 Syrians have been admitted under existing rules, barely more than one per day. (Only one, temporarily, came to Arkansas in that time.)

The New York Times today set out the explicit terms of entry. Even without additional legislation, the president's willingness to accept 10,000 more isn't likely to be achieved speedily. The procedure:

1. Registration with the United Nations.
2. Interview with the United Nations.
3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations.
4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.

The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to a country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for fewer than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.

5. Interview with State Department contractors.
6. First background check.
7. Higher-level background check for some.
8. Another background check.

The refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14 to 65.

9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
10. Second fingerprint screening.
11. Third fingerprint screening.

The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.

12. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.
13. Some cases referred for additional review.

Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.

14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.
Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.

15. Homeland Security approval is required.

If the House bill becomes law, the director of the F.B.I., the Homeland Security secretary and the director of national intelligence would be required to confirm that the applicant poses no threat.

16. Screening for contagious diseases.
17. Cultural orientation class.
18. Matched with an American resettlement agency.
19. Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.
Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.

20. Final security check at an American airport.

I'm willing to risk admission of people who've been through this process, particularly after reading articles about the hardships (including religious persecution) from which they are fleeing.

If you read nothing else in-depth today consider this remarkable New York Times article about women who fled ISIS.


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