To: The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate

Congress: Don't Demagogue Security Vetting of Syrian Refugees

Members of Congress should publicly acknowledge the fact that the U.S. government has a vigorous process of screening refugees for security risks before they are admitted to the U.S.

Why is this important?

Some Republican demagogues are taking advantage of the ISIS-Daesh attacks in Paris to try to scare Americans into thinking that admitting Syrian refugees to the U.S. would threaten our security. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Sunday that accepting Syrian refugees is "a suspension of intellect." [1] Senator Marco Rubio told ABC that "We won’t be able to take more refugees…Because there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria." [2]

But the claim that the U.S. government lacks the ability to screen refugees for security concerns is just not true. As Politifact noted: [3]

"Before a refugee even faces U.S. vetting, he or she must first clear an eligibility hurdle. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — or occasionally a U.S. embassy or another NGO — determines which refugees (about 1 percent) should be resettled through its own process, which can take four to 10 months."

"As we noted in a previous fact-check, once a case is referred from the UNHCR to the United States, a refugee undergoes a security clearance check that could take several rounds, an in-person interview, approval by the Department of Homeland Security, medical screening, a match with a sponsor agency, ‘cultural orientation’ classes, and one final security clearance. This all happens before a refugee ever gets onto American soil."

"'It can actually take almost three years,’ said Lavinia Limón, the president of the advocacy group, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. ‘The process for refugees is the most extensive security screening we have for visitors. It’s easier to come in as a tourist, a student, a businessman.’”

“The length and thoroughness of the U.S. vetting system set it apart from the ‘chaotic, dangerous process’ for refugees fleeing into Europe by sea, said Geoffrey Mock, the Syrian country specialist for Amnesty International USA… ‘the population identified by the UN and vetted by both organizations has worked successfully in alleviating crises in dozens of other countries, including Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Central African Republic,’ Mock said. ‘There’s no reason to believe Syria will be any different.’”

Urge Members of Congress to tell the truth – that the U.S. government has a vigorous process for screening refugees for security concerns – by signing our petition.