The Refugee Resettlement Tango
Under normal circumstances, the screening process for a refugee coming to America takes, on average, between 8 and 14 months, frequently stretching to a full two years if the refugee is from an area of high concern.
The process begins with a designation of refugee status, most often by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), followed by a referral to the United States by the UNHCR, a U.S. embassy, or, increasingly, certain international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Once the status is conferred, the screening process begins at a resettlement support center (RSC) contracted by the U.S. Department of State. It is the staff of the RSC who compiles all that can be known about the refugee – personal information, background checks, and other elements of identification.
Once the dossier is complete, it is forwarded to the State Department for security screening against a number of databases before the applicant is fingerprinted and photographed. The refugee then goes into an in-person interview with an officer of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Based on the information provided by the RSC and the results (if any) from the electronic database checks and the in-person interview, the USCIS officer makes the determination as to whether the applicant is approved for resettlement in the United States.
There are two more cursory checks performed before final resettlement. Right before the candidate leaves the RSC, a second interagency check is run to look for any new information. The final check comes when the refugee arrives in the U.S. and a Customs officer reviews the documents to make certain the refugee arriving is indeed the refugee who applied and was cleared.
The astute among you will have already identified the weak link in the chain: the resettlement support center. The RSC is not an American entity. International and local organizations are contracted to staff and operate the RSCs, and while there is a measure of screening applied to the workers, it is largely limited to typical employment information as opposed to high-level security clearance screening.
The gatekeepers to America aren't Americans. Couple this with the reality on the ground in Syria – there are no government records to search – and the dossier prepared on Syrian refugees is thin indeed. There have been credible reports that at least one of the RSCs tasked with processing requests for asylum has been routinely rejecting applications from Christians – not after careful consideration, mind you, but rather by tossing them directly into the trash.
The RSCs in these areas are staffed by Muslims, and clear preference has been given to Muslim applicants, resulting in a 96:4 ratio of Muslim asylees to Christian/non-Muslim asylees.
The claim by refugee advocates that stringent vetting is the norm, not the exception would be laughable if it were not so deliberately false and absurdly dangerous. The system relies on information gleaned almost entirely from the refugees themselves.
The vaunted electronic database searches conducted by the State Department are worthless without reliable data, and as we have seen, even the "JV" team is capable of crafting rudimentary identities. It would not be too great a challenge for ISIS to insert as many jihadists as they might want into the refugee stream.
Absent a refugee waving an ISIS flag strung on the bloody blade of a scimitar, we have literally no reliable way of ascertaining threats among the crowd clamoring for entry.
Surely the refugee resettlement organizations in America are aware of these shortfalls in our screening capabilities…aren't they? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but they don't care.
The amount of money involved in the refugee resettlement business rivals the gross revenues of the Fortune 500. Many of these organizations derive a majority of their entire operating budgets from federal resettlement funds. The prospect of increasing their revenues fourfold has these organizations salivating.
They are also growling and snapping at anyone who threatens their expected feast. Conservative estimates expect the overall disbursements of federal funds to these organizations to nearly double in FY 2016 as a result of Syrian immigration. If they get their way, that doubled figure will double yet again in FY 2017.
These altruistic mavens see dollar signs as far as their rent-seeking eyes will allow, and they will brook no opposition to their plans. Not even national security dangers can tear their eyes away from the cash flowing into the federal trough.
Indeed, the flow of refugees is far too slow to satisfy their rapacious desires. A coalition of these trough-feeders has banded together, calling themselves the Refugee Council USA. They penned a letter to President Obama on the 18th of September urging him to raise the number of refugees for 2016 to a mind-boggling 200,000, with 100,000 of those being Syrian.
Notably, our own Lutheran Family Services is a signatory to this letter.
Remember when we discussed the process for resettlement? Remember the average length of time it takes for that process to be completed? It is patently obvious that there is no way to feasibly process 200,000 refugees in that short a time period – not unless one dispenses with the screening process altogether, a scenario that is not as far-fetched as one might think.
The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) has the power to expedite processing of a refugee case for resettlement in the United States. They can expedite all steps or only select steps.
Security clearance procedures, the requirement for a face-to-face interview with applicants, can be expedited to the point of absurdity, condensing the usual 8- to 14-month time frame for resettlement to less than 8-10 weeks from referral to arrival in the United States.
All that is needed is a request from the UNHCR, the processing RSC, or one of the NGOs to initiate expedited processing. The NGOs handling Syrian refugees are:
- Al Batoul
- Al Nada Development
- Al Ta'aluf
- Al Tamayouz Cooperative Society
- Danish Refugee Council
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for Antioch and All the East
- International Medical Corps
- Première Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale*
- Secours Islamique France*
- Syrian Society for Social Development
- The Syria Trust for Development
Of the eleven, all but three are entirely Muslim organizations – led by Muslims and staffed by Muslims. The remaining three are staffed locally, again by Muslims, who are responsible for operations on the ground.
Simply put, the refugees selected for transfer to the United States are chosen by their ideological peers, investigated and screened by their ideological peers, and sent to a city near you without a single agent of the United States government having any meaningful involvement in the gathering or compiling of Intel on these applicants.
Quite soon, the number of Syrian refugees being accorded "expedited status" will be raised to 100%.
The administration has announced the establishment of additional RSCs tasked with handling the expedited application process. We are no longer looking at an 8- to 14-month window, but rather a 2- to 3-month window. Scared? You should be.
As so often happens with the left, while they are wagging their fingers at you with one hand, the other one is buried deep in your pocket. This time, however, we have more to lose than our tax dollars. Our lives are at stake.
The author is a writer based in Omaha and serves as the communications director for the Global Faith Institute. www.globalfaith.org