Which Muslim refugees to accept?
President-Elect Donald Trump is right: Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the Somali refugee who went on a Palestinian-inspired jihad-rampage with a car and a knife, wounding 11 people at Ohio State University last Monday, "should not have been in our country."
Artan is but one of an unknown number of Muslim refugees who have been allowed into the country through a deliberately flawed screening system that was established by the Obama administration.
Earlier this year, Amman's refugee resettlement center coordinator at the American Embassy in Jordan, Gina Kassem, admitted that at least 600 refugees had been interviewed each day, hastily, since the center opened in 2015. Moreover, to achieve the goal set by Obama to increase the flow of refugees to the U.S., the center has not been excluding anyone or "look[ing] for families with certain education background, language skills or other socio-economic factors [or] cut family sizes." It is safe to assume that similar actions have been taken by U.S. refugee resettlement coordinators elsewhere.
Even if the interviews took longer, how could any U.S. agency involved with the screening of refugees requesting to resettle here check the background of Artan and his family, who reportedly claimed to be a Somalis, who had spent seven years in Pakistan? Why were the teenage Artan, his mother, and his siblings allowed into the U.S.? Islamic terrorist activities make both Somalia and Pakistan high-risk countries, and all applicants for immigration to the U.S. should have gone through most rigorous screening.
While White House press secretary Josh Earnest kept reassuring reporters: "This vetting of refugee applicants involves collecting biometric info, doing in-person interviews, doing background checks, running their info through a variety of national security and international databases," it became clear that it is enough to be "a Muslim refugee" to fit into Obama's plan to resettle the U.S. with Muslims.
Official statistics on the number of Muslim refugees brought to the U.S. during the past five years do not include those from of high-risk countries who came through secret bilateral deals, similar to the recently exposed "one-off" agreement to accept refugees Australia refuses to accept.
In a surprising move, earlier this week, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service has ordered that "[e]ffective immediately offices are instructed not to approve or oath any naturalization cases in [the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS)]. At this point, we are not confident that proper FBI Name Checks have been run on certain ELIS cases … [and we are] uncertain of the scope of the problem." Was Artan, the Ohio Somali jihadist, one of those cases? How many more Artans are among the refugees?
An effective way to find out would be screening through an efficient, unbiased, and unintrusive system – namely, the Suspect Detection Systems (SDS).
According to the company's website, the SDS is an automated interviewing and interrogation system that allows the screening of a large number of people in a short time. It "does not require operator training. One operator can handle simultaneously ten stations. It has a central management and database system that allows storing all tests results, analysis, and data mining, and is deployed and integrated with governmental agencies."
Using this system would eliminate the need to use often biased U.S. Consulate employees. Moreover, the SDS uses an automated decision-making system, which is "adaptable to a variety of different questioning contexts, different cultures, and languages. "The examination lasts 5 minutes when there are no indications of harmful intent, and 7 minutes to ascertain it (with only 4% false positive, and 10% false negative)."
The SDS capability to detect intent seems to fit President-Elect Trump's promise of "extreme vetting" of Muslim refugees from high-risk regions. This and other similarly objective systems would assist only in making America safer, but also in keeping its tradition of accepting refugees who do not wish us harm.